December 23, 2003New School Safety Initiatives Based on Successful NYPD Crime-Fighting Initiatives to Address Problem Schools and Problem Students
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced a new school safety plan to reduce school violence and create safe learning environments in all City public schools, particularly in those with persistent safety problems. The new plan will identify and alleviate violent and disruptive behavior in schools by focusing on problem schools and problem students, in addition to streamlining the school suspension process. School safety officials will apply strategies based on successful NYPD crime-fighting initiatives such as "Operation Impact" and "Operation Spotlight." Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein were joined by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt and Chief Executive Officer of School Safety and Planning Benjamin Tucker to make the announcement at the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety in Jamaica, Queens.
"Every student has the right to seek an education in an atmosphere free of fear or intimidation," Mayor Bloomberg said. "The plan we are announcing today will turn around the schools most plaqued by disruptive students and criminal behavior. It will identify problem students and send the message that disorder will not be tolerated. Whether a student chronically misbehaves or commit a serious crime, they will be dealt with swiftly, appropriately and removed from the school when necessary."
"The cultural transformation underway in our schools applies not only to classroom instruction, but also to the creation of a safe and secure learning environment," said Chancellor Klein. "It is the obligation of everyone in the system - from all of us in City government to the adults working and studying in our schools everyday - to take responsibility for maintaining order and safety and to create a proper setting in which teachers can teach and children can learn."
Focusing on Problem Schools and Locations
Building on the "SchoolSafe" strategy that began last year, the new schools safety plan calls for identifying and focusing added resources on the high schools and middle schools with the highest incident rates. These "Impact Schools" will receive targeted deployment of school safety agents and police officers to prevent criminal behavior. The "Impact School" strategy is based on the NYPD's successful "Operation Impact," which has been instrumental in bringing crime down by deploying large numbers of police officers each day to strategically targeted locations or impact zones that exhibited a greater propensity for crime during certain hours and days. These sites were selected based on analyses of crime trends identified through COMPSTAT. This model will be applied to "Impact Schools." To improve incident reporting, a new school safety hotline will be established through 311 for confidential reporting of criminal incidents.
When "Impact Schools" are identified based on the latest data on criminal incidents, suspensions and on early warning problems as school attendance rates and incidents of disorderly behavior, dedicated safety intervention teams will develop safety plans within five days. These safety plans will include the utilization of enhanced scanning and security measures, the redeployment of school safety officers as well as the development of improved scheduling and other school safety tactics. The number of police officers will be doubled and the number of SSA's will also be increased at "Impact Schools." School-based police officers will report to school safety sergeants in local precincts in order to forge closer ties between Impact schools and local precincts. Probation officers will work in "Impact Schools" to reduce truancy, supervise school-based probationers, monitor students under court supervision and enhance probation investigations of Family Court cases. Finally, at "Impact Schools," specialized principal training/support will be provided, and principals' disciplinary responses to most serious school incidents will be audited regularly.
The "Broken Windows" approach to crime fighting will also be applied. Just as the NYPD has successfully preempted major crimes by paying close attention to areas with frequent minor quality of life offenses, the new school safety plan will focus on areas where there is frequent disorderly behavior, such as cursing or taunting other students, which can create an atmosphere conducive to more serious incidents. The plan will call upon all adults, including teachers, principals, deans, guidance counselors, administrators, SSAs, police and other school staff to maintain order in hallways, cafeterias and other school locations. In addition, a police presence in these key problem locations will be increased.
Identifying Problem Students
The new plan will call for an immediate, consistent minimum response to even the most minor violation of a school's disciplinary rules (e.g. after-school detention, school-based service). A principal's suspension of 1-5 days will also be imposed upon students who fail to complete detention or school service.
Using as a model the City's "Operation Spotlight" initiative, which focuses the attention of the criminal justice system on chronic misdemeanor offenders who commit a disproportionate amount of crime, school personnel will focus on students who are continually causing trouble in our schools and will quickly remove them from hallways and classrooms. Students with two or more principal or superintendent suspensions within a 24-month period will be considered "Spotlight Students." A three-strikes-and-you're-out policy will be implemented for those students with "Spotlight" status. Any new incident of Level 2 - such as misbehaving on a schools bus, using profanity, or misusing others property - or higher (Level 1-5 incidents are defined in the Department of Education's Citywide Standards of Discipline and Intervention Measures) will trigger the immediate removal and transfer from the school. "Spotlight students" who have been removed will be placed in Off Site Suspension Centers, New Beginnings or SOS depending on student need and the severity of the incident. Just as "Operation Spotlight" has resulted in the quick removal of chronic misdemeanants from the streets, "Spotlight Students" will quickly be removed from our schools.
A cornerstone of the new safety plan will be to identify problem students who create an atmosphere of fear or intimidation- making it impossible for other students to learn. The plan will call for "zero tolerance" for the worst incidents by removing immediately and permanently all students who possess illegal weapons and/or cause serious injury in the City's schools. After removal, these students will be sent to Second Opportunity Schools (SOS) for students who have been suspended for an entire year.
Streamlining the Suspension Process
The new plan will also expand alternative placement centers for suspended students. School safety officials will increase Off-Site Suspension Center capacity by adding four new centers and adding four more "New Beginnings" sites (two for high schools and two for middle schools) next semester. More After-School Instruction Centers will also be created to serve all "Impact Schools." Finally, more students will be assigned to SOS schools.
Central to the new school safety plan will be the enhancement of the current suspension policy. Much of the red tape that has delayed action in the past will be eliminated from the system. As part of this enhanced plan, all suspension hearings will be held within five days of suspension. We will also expedite suspension hearings and free up school staff by allowing school witnesses to provide testimony through telephone interviews. The plan also seeks to toughen and reform the suspension process by lengthening the maximum principal's suspensions from five to ten days through legislative change.
The plan will also ensure that our schools work more closely with the criminal justice system. Specifically, that will mean providing information to probation officers and the courts about students charged with crimes so that they can make the right bail and sentencing decisions. The Department of Education will put representatives in each courthouse in the city. Their job will be to ensure that schools provide attendance, disciplinary, and academic records of students to probation officers and the courts. At the same time, we will work with the Family Court to make sure that student victims are properly protected and not forced to transfer.