Nearly 70 candidates for City Council seats across the city are pledging to push for a complete removal of police from city schools, arguing last year’s promise to shift school safety supervision from the NYPD to the Education Department didn’t go far enough.
“In the last budget we got a ‘commitment’ of shifting resources,” said Adolfo Abreu, a City Council candidate in the Bronx’s District 14. “They just did a switcharoo … there wasn’t a real divestment from the school safety division.”
The sign-on pledge, created by the youth advocacy group Urban Youth Collaborative, asks candidates to push to “remove all police personnel from New York City public schools. Do not transfer their supervision to the Department of Education.”
It also asks the would-be officials to advocate to remove metal detectors from schools, and end the practice of involving police officers in responding to student mental health crises.
The fight over the fate of the NYPD’s more than 5,000-strong School Safety division was a centerpiece of last year’s contentious budget negotiations, which took place near the height of the racial justice protests sweeping the city.
Officials touted the move from NYPD to DOE as a major reform, though cautioned the transition would take place over multiple years.
Students who have been organizing for years to reduce the police presence in schools said the momentum is building but there’s still a long way to go.
Jade Entien, a 16-year-old student in the Bronx, said just the visible presence of police in schools casts a pall over the climate in their school building.
“Since they patrol the hallways, it feels kind of stuffy, like trapped-ish,” they said.
Dariel Infante, a 16-year-old Brooklyn student who moved to New York from the Dominican Republic, said he was shocked to see how many police officers staff city public school buildings.
“I wasn’t used to seeing police officers in schools,” he said. “When I came to the U.S., I came to the building and said, ‘am I in school or am I in trouble?’”
The students are instead calling for more than $400 million in funding for school security to go towards additional counselors, mental health supports and alternative disciplinary approaches.
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