The Adams administration has presented a comprehensive plan to bolster school safety, set to take effect as students return for the upcoming academic year, following a series of unfortunate and occasionally fatal incidents involving school children last year.
Schools Chancellor David Banks has actively collaborated with local entities and city staff to devise protective and preventive measures for the city’s students. Chancellor Banks, in a recent briefing at City Hall, made the administration’s intent clear, stating, “We’re not trying to militarize our schools, and we’re not doing that. We’re not trying to over-police our schools, and we’re not doing that.”
Instead, according to Banks, the primary objective is to amplify communication mechanisms within the schooling ecosystem, ensuring a safer environment for the students.
School Safety Overhaul
Police Commissioner Edward Caban championed the technology-driven approach, noting, “Technology is key for everything we do.”
He further unveiled plans for the new tip-line, which will be operational this fall, allowing the public to voice concerns about schools and students. Although specifics about the tip-line are still under wraps, its primary goal is to facilitate early intervention, preventing potential hazards before they escalate.
The new initiative aims to deepen dialogue between borough commanders and school district superintendents by building upon existing communication strategies. This is an extension of a program rolled out last year that fostered communication between school principals and precinct commanders.
Banks, emphasizing the importance of such collaborative efforts, remarked, “Those folks want to be talking to each other. The principals, when they are seeing things happening in their schools, they’re seeing other kids come to their school trying to create problems after school. Who will they alert, so we can alert the commanding officer at the precinct, give them the heads up and they can help to connect those dots.”
Moreover, the Adams administration is also keen on bridging the pandemic-induced gap in School Safety Agents. With current numbers standing at 4,100 agents, an additional 250 are set to join the ranks in October. “We continue to boost the ranks,” Banks affirmed.
Project Pivot, another initiative, seeks to station more violence interrupters in schools and safety personnel in areas between school buildings and subway stations. The participation is set to jump to 250 schools this year from 144 last year.
Schools Doors Locked Initiative
Additionally, starting this year, New York City public schools will implement locked front doors across the five boroughs as a heightened security measure to deter potential school shootings.
This technology allows schools to control their front entrances meticulously, granting access only to verified individuals. This academic year will see about 744 elementary schools equipped with this enhanced security feature.
Banks said, “After the school day begins and the door locks, anyone who shows up at the school will press the buzzer, [and] will be seen by the School Safety Agent at the front door. They will be able to communicate with them and present their ID and the reason for being there before we gain entry.”
Initially launching in elementary schools, the program will extend to middle and high schools the following year.
The Rising Challenge
Authorities reported the confiscation of 6,945 weapons in schools last year, including guns and box cutters, but predominantly knives.
The surge in weapons recovered in schools last year is linked to a rise in violence outside of schools. Banks emphasized the city’s commitment to collaborating with the community to ensure secure routes to and from schools.
“Last year we were disturbed to see the uptick in weapons brought to school. Kids were not bringing these weapons to school to do damage to their classmates. They told us over and over, these weapons were being used to protect themselves to and from school,” Chancellor Banks stated.
Mindful Breathing: Strategy for Student Well-being
Banks also highlighted a new initiative where students will engage in daily mindful breathing sessions lasting two to four minutes, equipping them with skills to defuse conflicts before they escalate.
He emphasized that it’s not merely a “novel activity,” but rather a vital skill that they aim for schools to refine and strengthen over time.
Chancellor Banks stated that, this way, when students encounter any trauma, they can consciously take a deep breath and make informed decisions rather than impulsively reacting.
In light of recent tragedies at schools including Robb Elementary and Parkland, New York City’s police have integrated firsthand insights to introduce a series of safety enhancements for the current school year.
“We feel good about the comprehensive plan in place to ensure the protection of NYC’s most precious gifts, our children,” said Commissioner Caban.
Thursday, September 7, is the first day of classes at New York City public schools.