NYC Parents Continue to Voice Concerns Over School Violence
Some parents are pushing for more school safety agents while others believe restorative justice is the best approach to combat increasing student violence.
NEW YORK, N.Y. — Parents with children enrolled in New York City Public Schools say their requests for more security have been ignored, putting students’ safety at risk and interfering with their learning.
Some parents claim principals have asked the city for more school safety agents amid an increase in violence but that nothing has been done, reports CBS Local. The city’s School Safety Division is down 2,000 agents due to budget cuts and the vaccine mandate.
The lack of agents isn’t new. Back in October, NYC parents and leaders called for more safety agents in schools. Even then, there were 1,800 fewer agents patrolling city schools, according to Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd, who represents the city’s school safety agents. Floyd said he largely blames the lack of support from the city and City Council for the significant loss of agents, noting that new school safety agents haven’t been hired since 2019.
A representative from Community Education Council 2, which is responsible for ensuring parents and the public have input in educational decision-making at public schools, said three elementary schools are down to one safety agent and each principal has asked the city to place a second agent because they are currently unable to properly monitor entrances and exits.
“It does feel like we’re all left to fend for ourselves right now,” said councilperson Robin Kelleher.
When CBS Local asked NYC Mayor Eric Adams if there were plans to increase security, a City Hall spokesperson said, “The safety of our students is a top priority, and we are analyzing to see how we can better support our schools and protect our students.” The spokesperson referred the news station to the NYPD about the timing of any plans.
The NYPD said it is training a new class of agents but Floyd said there are only 200 in the class, which is a fraction of the usual size.
“It takes about five months to get a school safety agent in place,” he said. “So, if we started today, by September we can have school safety agents in place.”
Paul Ramos, who was a student at Manhattan’s Middle School 297, said there are not enough safety agents to monitor the school’s six floors. His mother, Olivia, transferred him out of the school last month after he said he was hit with a locker door and was “being kicked around, messed with, punched.”
“So he basically couldn’t concentrate on learning,” his mother said, adding there is no full-time librarian at the school and a plethora of school leaders. “So you tell me where the priorities are.”
In the past few weeks, there have been a handful of violent incidents at the school, prompting a visit from Department of Education security chief Mark Rampersant on Friday, according to The New York Post. Some of the fights have been racially charged, said rookie principal Valerie Leak.
The violence has led to the creation of a Snapchat group named “75 Morton Fights” where fight footage is shared. In one incident, a seventh-grader was body-slammed in a cafeteria and lost teeth. The aggressor in that fight was suspended.
Some parents have criticized Leak’s response to the violence, claiming she has neglected incidents and relied heavily on restorative justice strategies, which aim for a peaceful resolution between conflicting students.
“That’s fine, but when there are no other consequences, things are going to happen,” one mother said. “If kids know they can get away with something, they do it. That is what’s happening here.”
Other parents have defended Leak, saying the first-year principal is doing her best to acclimate students back into the school following COVID-19 disruptions.
“I think things have calmed throughout the year,” said parent Joe Sherinsky. “You have a new principal in a new role, kids in a new situation. It was rough for everyone but she has been taking the steps needed to address it.”
PTA president Maya Brewster said most of the parents at the school have supported Leak and the school’s disciplinary approach.
After Rampersant’s visit Friday, the DOE said it would be placing additional personnel at the middle school, including more school aides, paraprofessionals and social workers.
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