2002-11-30 / Community

Operation Safe Schools Announced

Operation Safe Schools Announced

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt announced an immediate series of initiatives designed to promote order in the public schools.

The overall program was developed by the Department of Education as part of its Children First Initiative, working with the Police Department and the Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator, together with the support of the Vera Institute for Justice.

"As I have said from the day I took office, school safety is a top priority of my administration," Klein said. "Despite this year’s 8% drop in serious crime in our schools as compared to last year, ensuring a safe and supportive learning environment for those students who want to learn remains a paramount responsibility of the school system.

I have also reminded our superintendents and principals of their responsibility for the state of our students’ learning environment. I want to make sure our school safety committees – composed of principals, administrators, school safety officers, and representatives of the United Federation of Teachers – work collaboratively and effectively. Ensuring a safe learning environment for children who want to learn – and dealing appropriately with those who don’t – must always be our number one concern."

"The increase in school safety agents combined with the installation of closed circuit television cameras in select schools will enhance the police department’s ability to make New York city schools more safe," Commissioner Kelly said.

There are two major components of this announcement. First is the New York City Police Department’s four immediate steps:

Targeted Deployment of Recent Class of SSA’s: Immediate deployment of 129 newly hired school safety officers to schools with the most serious safety issues. These officers have already been assigned by the NYPD to those schools with the most serious issues of safety and order;

Expanded New Class of SSA’s: The hiring of 300 additional school safety agents to be trained and out of the academy during the Spring school semester. These officers will also be deployed to those schools in greatest need. This newest class should bring staffing levels in the NYPD’s School Safety Division close to full headcount (depending on attrition rates) for the first time in several years – more than 4,200 officers;

Use of Additional Personnel: Assignment of all School Safety Division administrative personnel on a rotating basis to these schools to demonstrate the Police Department’s commitment to using every available resource to support schools in the greatest need;

Additional Surveillance Cameras: Within the next few weeks, the NYPD’s Technical Assistance Response Unit will begin the process of placing state-of-the-art surveillance cameras in all 11 large high schools that have had a history of safety issues. Morris, Tilden, Erasmus, Taft, Truman, South Shore, George Washington, Prospect Heights, John F. Kennedy and Graphic Arts (August Martin currently has cameras in place). This will bring to more than 40 of the total number of high schools with cameras in place.

The other major component is the Department of Education’s program, part of the overall Children First initiative, which is creating a series of increasing levels of sanctions and support for children with discipline issues. The new policy reflects a tough, new discipline process in schools designed to protect the learning environment for those who want to learn by removing more disorderly children from the classroom and the school until they are ready to learn.

The new process identifies five levels of student misconduct, each with a new clear set of sanctions for students coupled with additional services designed to make sure that students who want to learn can do so without interruption, and that other students receive the support they need. Each of these is in addition to those programs already in place in the schools – augmenting the Department’s current discipline code – and are designed to ensure a swift and certain response for any behavior that inhibits learning for others. The new elements of the program include:

Contract with Consequence: For committing minor infractions of disorder in the classroom, students will be required to sign a new student behavior contract that will also have to be signed by their parent or guardian in a parent conference, insuring parents and guardians have a role in the student’s discipline process.

Community Service Assignments: For committing repeated minor infractions in class, students will be given visible, supervised in-school service assignments, such as graffiti removal. Depending on the incidents, students may also be required to attend Saturday or evening violence prevention and conflict resolution programs, or risk further sanctions.

Short and Long-Term Removal from the Classroom: For non-violent but serious infractions, students will continue to be re-assigned to enhanced in-school suspension centers for a period of several days to get them out of the classroom so other children may continue to learn. However, under the new program, in those cases when a more serious non-violent infraction, the student will be reassigned to newly created "transitional" classrooms that will be located in the high schools and other designated borough centers, Students will spend up to several weeks in these classrooms, which will allow other students to study while these students can receive the services they need to make them ready to return to the classroom.

Removal from School: For committing repeated more serious infractions, students will be assigned to newly created "twilight schools" that will be established in each borough. These new schools will include community service assignments during the day – performing assignments with the Parks Department, for example – and classes in the late afternoon and early evening.

Extended Removal from School: Students who commit the most serious infractions will continue to be assigned to an expanded program of Second opportunity Schools. These programs will be increased in capacity (from the current 300), re-configured to separate middle school students from high school students, and the rules will be changed to allow more students to be placed in these facilities.

As part of this initiative, and thanks to the change in governance structure making the Department of Education a Mayoral agency, a host of city agencies are now becoming part of a citywide effort to support teaching and learning.

The New York City Police Department has had a partnership with our schools for a number of years. Now the New York City Department Of Health and Mental Hygiene will be working with schools to provide increased mental health referral services for children involved in these incidents.

The New York City Department of Probation has offered to provide trained officers in key schools. The New York City Parks Department will work with the Department of Education on creating supervised community service assignments for children in twilight schools.

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