During the racial justice protests that raged throughout the nation in 2020, former Mayor Bill de Blasio made a commitment to transfer the control of school safety agents from the NYPD to the Education Department. De Blasio made this decision without discussing stakeholders, such as parents and the hard-working people that work as School Safety Agents. Since 2020, there has been a significant drop in School Safety agents from 5,290 pre-pandemic to roughly 3,200 deployed today.
School Safety Agents are 70% Black and Hispanic women. They are mothers and grandmothers from our communities, our neighbors. Ninety percent of School Safety Agents are people of color. School Safety Agents are civil servants who take a civil service exam and undergo 17-weeks training at the Police Academy. These women and men are on the frontlines in protecting students, teachers, principals and school staff. They seize loaded firearms in schools without bullet-proof vests. Putting their lives on the line every day to protect our children.
This attempt to move School Safety Agents back to the Department of Education, while discussed often and the subject of many rallies, was never formalized and will not be conducted under Mayor Adams’ current budget. 5,290 School Safety Agents who were slated to be shifted from the control of the NYPD to the Department of Education will instead remain in place. This news comes at a crucial time as the number of guns seized in schools in the city has increased by 80 percent just this year. 3,315 weapons were collected by School Safety Agents in schools from July 1 to February 20, compared to 1,845 weapons seized during the same timeframe in the 2019-2020 pre-pandemic year. De Blasio later admitted that he had not supported the idea of transfer of control to the Department of Education.
While Adams was on the campaign trail, school safety was a common topic of interest. Adams was in support of School Safety Agents but once he was sworn in, Adams seemed to change the narrative. Many people were worried that school safety, and thus the safety of children all over the city, was merely a talking point to get him into office. However, Mayor Adams put this fear to rest when the budget proposal was announced on February 16th. The final budget is decided upon at negotiations between the mayor and the City Council.
Data from the NYPD shows alarming statistics when it comes to weapons found in schools. The discovery of tasers has increased by 600% compared to the 2019-2020 academic year, knives have increased 25%, and there has been a 326% increase in “other” weapons including brass knuckles and pepper spray. Quiann Simpkins, a School Safety Agent that has fought this proposed decision, spoke on the fear of violence that causes many students to carry weapons. She said, “There is a high sense of fear amongst children. They are bringing the weapons to school buildings [because] they are afraid on their travel to and from school.” The mayor also dismissed the notion that students are justified in carrying firearms in order to feel safe in the face of escalating crime statistics in the city. “I’m not accepting anyone stating they’re going to carry a weapon because they don’t feel safe,” Mayor Eric Adams declared.
The role of School Safety Agents is crucial considering there has been a stark increase in weapons seizures at city schools. “This is real. These are real weapons that could be used on teachers, staff, administrators, and most importantly our children,” Adams said after he was shown pictures of weapons seized out of a student’s backpack at a Manhattan school. The weapons included several knives, brass knuckles, and extendable batons amongst other things.
The move to keep the control of the School Safety Agents under the NYPD was not met with universal praise. Johanna Miller, the Director of the Education Policy Center at the New York Civil Liberties Union made the point that the decision to keep the control of the school agents within the NYPD should have been made after public consultation. She went on to further say that the transfer of power to the Department of Education would have given educators a say in how schools are run. However the data, according to the Department of Education, indicates that the partnership between schools and school safety agents is effective in preventing weapons and other dangerous materials from entering schools. Furthermore, the teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers and the principals union, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, have both publicly stated they support School Safety Agents remaining under the purview of the NYPD.
The decision to reverse the previous administration’s plan to transfer the School Safety Agents from the purview of the NYPD is a win for the city. Many people, who prior to this decision had placed a lot of heat on Mayor Adams to protect the children of New York, now sing his praise. The NYC School Safety Coalition, a group of community leaders, School Safety Agents, and parents, welcomed the news with some of their members giving their views. “Thank you Mayor Adams for keeping our children safe in schools. By reversing this ill-advised decision by the former administration, you are ensuring our children a safe environment to learn and grow into the leaders and innovators I know they can be. Children cannot focus on learning when they are in danger or fearing for their lives. The decision to keep School Safety Agents in schools and under the purview of the NYPD is not only the right choice but the smart choice,” said Jackie-Rowe Adams of Harlem Mother SAVE.
“This is welcome news in a time of increased crime and violence in our streets and in our schools. Our students need increased protection from School Safety Agents, under the NYPD. The ill-conceived plan to transfer the SSAs from under the NYPD to the DOE would have made our kids unsafe,” said Wai Wah Chin, Charter President of Chinese American Citizens Alliance Greater New York.
Mohammed Mardah, Chairman, African Advisory Council of the Bronx Borough President’s Office said, “Mayor Eric Adams reversing the decision to move the school safety agents from the NYPD to the DOE is the right decision not only for the city but, more importantly, for the children in the schools. Often, the agents are the first responders whenever there is an issue in the schools, and having trained and vetted professionals would make all the difference in the schools and keep everyone safe.”
Quiann Simpkins, a public-school parent and School Safety Agent herself had this to say, “Huge thank you to Mayor Adams for putting school communities first. Being both an NYC parent and an NYPD School Safety Agent, I commend him for taking a stance to do what’s right. Finally, common sense politics prevail.”
“As a parent of four public school children and as a long-time parent leader and education activist in this city, I welcome the news that School Safety Agents will continue the vital and important work they do within the NYPD. Our schools, like our city, need to be safer, not less safe so we need more School Safety Agents, not fewer. Mayor Adams is once again focusing on practical solutions and that is great news for kids,” said Maud Maron, Public school parent, School Leadership Team Member, and former CEC District 2 President.