Mayoral candidate and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called for principals to have more control over disciplinary decisions in schools. But she stopped short of saying she would transfer full authority back to principals from the New York Police Department.
While the Bloomberg administration has famously considered principals to be the CEOs of their schools, principals’ authority does not extend to safety agents, who since 1998 have been under the authority of the New York Police Department in an arrangement that advocates say breeds tension. Some Democratic candidates for mayor have said they would restore authority to principals if elected.
But Quinn said she would seek a healthy balance between the NYPD and educators’ influence in school discipline.
“I think you want the school safety agents to also have NYPD training, you want them to also have that focus,” she said at a press conference at City Hall today. “But we want the majority of focus and we want final decisions to be made by the principals. That’s critical.”
While school safety agents would still be stationed in schools and answer to the NYPD, principals would get to pick the officers in their buildings under Quinn’s plan.
Quinn also proposed ending arrests for minor in-school offenses — such as writing on a desk, the cause of one notorious arrest in 2010 — and ensuring that school safety agents receive training on how to work with students. Some advocates have already started trying to collaborate with school safety agents to provide this type of training.
In May, a task force made up of city officials, educators, and members of the justice system called for similar recommendations. Mayoral candidates Bill Thompson, Comptroller John Liu and Sal Albanese have pledged to return control of school discipline from the NYPD to school principals. In an interview with The Nation, mayoral candidate and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said he “wouldn’t necessarily change the jurisdiction of the school safety agents away from the NYPD” but he would change “the way decisions are made in the school.”
Cheyanne Smith, who will be a senior at the Bushwick School for Social Justice and has worked with the Urban Youth Collaborative, said Quinn’s proposal represents a step in the right direction for the city. She said police officers at her school are not skilled at working with young people and that every day when she walks through her school’s metal detectors, she feels like a criminal.
“Having police officers in our schools is extremely detrimental to the mental and emotional growth of New York City students,” she said.
Citing the passage of the Student Safety Act in 2010 and the recent reduction in the number of arrests and suspensions in city schools, Quinn also took the opportunity to criticize de Blasio, now seen as the frontrunner in the Democratic race.
“Look, you can’t just have good ideas and call yourself a progressive. If you’re going to be a progressive you need to be a progressive with results,” she said. “That’s what I’ve delivered as it relates to school safety and that’s what I will deliver with this six-point plan moving forward.”