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Queens Council Member’s Bill To Remove NYPD Safety Officers From Public Schools Draws Critics

School safety agents Photo Credit: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office 2014

Feb. 22, 2021 By Michael Dorgan

A coalition of elected officials, students, parents and other advocates have come out against a bill sponsored by Queens Council Member Costa Constantinides that aims to remove the NYPD from public schools.

The group argues that the bill–introduced Feb. 11— falls short since the 5,000 NYPD safety agents that are currently patrolling schools would essentially remain.

Constantinides’ bill, critics say, would just transfer their oversight from the NYPD to the Department of Education. The safety agents would still largely perform the same role, they say, although the officers would be retrained with a focus on restorative justice and de-escalation– and would not have weapons or be able to make arrests.

The opponents are demanding that the 5,000 safety agents performing security duties at public schools be removed for good. The group wants outside groups like restorative justice coordinators, social workers and counselors to take their place.

The coalition, which includes city council members Ben Kallos, Brad Lander and Carlos Menchaca, said that the bill does not go far enough.

“Police-free schools means no safety agents, period, whether in the NYPD or the DOE or any agency,” Menchaca said during a recent virtual press briefing.

Menchaca said that the bill was drafted without input from students.

“That is why I believe that this bill is wrong and needs to start over with [youth] at the front and at the table,” Menchaca said.

The calls to remove the NYPD from school policing duties stem from last summer’s racial justice protests and wider demands to reform and defund the NYPD.

The coalition notes that black and brown youth have suffered the most from the current school policing system. They say that school safety needs a complete overhaul, beginning with the removal of safety agents.

According to the bill, the NYPD would be removed from overseeing school safety by June 2022 and the agents would be put under the jurisdiction of the Dept. of Education.

School safety agents would then be retrained with a focus on areas such as restorative justice, child and youth development, and de-escalation. They would no longer be able to wear law enforcement uniforms.

Agents would also be stripped of the powers to make arrests, carry weapons or use other forms of restraints.

The bill, which is in committee, is co-sponsored by council members Helen Rosenthal, Mark Treyger, Adrienne Adams, Corey Johnson, Stephen Levin, Bill Perkins. Constantinides is the prime sponsor.

Constantinides was unable to be reached for comment.

The coalition insists, however, that the bill simply shifts responsibility from one city agency to another without removing safety agents.

“This transfer will not magically fix all of the implicit bias that they were trained to have,” said Keneisha Buckley, a student and youth leader with Urban Youth Collaborative, a group that advocates for education reform in New York City public schools.

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