Hallway Patrol

NYCLU: First step to school safety is rejecting metal detectors

Principal William Jusino of Progress High School at the NYCLU
Principal William Jusino of Progress High School at the NYCLU press conference. (<em>GothamSchools</em>)

Many city schools rely on metal detectors, security guards, and zero-tolerance policies to keep discipline under control. They don’t have to, according to a new report about alternate strategies to keep schools safe.

The report, produced by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, highlights six city high schools that stop problems before they start, help students resolve their own disputes, and keep police out of all but the most serious incidents. The schools range in size and how students are admitted, but they all post higher-than-average graduation rates, the report says.

“There is no cookie-cutter solution” to replicating the gentler approach to discipline, said NYCLU policy director Udi Ofer at a press conference today. But he said getting rid of metal detectors, currently in place at about 130 city schools, is a good place to start. “Metal detectors do not make schools safer,” he said, adding that they create “flashpoints” for conflict between students and police officers. Such conflicts cause students to be arrested unnecessarily and undermine the authority of principals and teachers, the NYCLU has argued.

The number of police officers assigned to schools has increased in recent years, and the Department of Education also launched an initiative two years ago that surprises students with temporary metal detectors. Those strategies will not be dropped, according to a department spokeswoman, Margie Feinberg. “We wholeheartedly embrace discipline as an educational matter, but we will continue to use all tools available to us,” Feinberg said in a statement today. The city says major school crimes have fallen by nearly half since the mayor took office.

In its report, the NYCLU also argues that schools should treat fewer infractions as crimes; that fewer police officers should be assigned to schools; and that the city should make school safety data more available. “The additional recommendations cannot be successfully accomplished without first getting rid of the metal detectors,” Ofer told me.

A principal at the press conference, William Jusino of Progress High School in Brooklyn, told me that it takes hard work to create a positive culture around school safety. “Metal detectors are just one symbol, but symbols are important,” he said. “The removal of those negative symbols begins to let other folks know that you’re really concerned about the community that you serve.”

At Progress, students are involved in setting discipline policy, and administrators convinced the city to remove metal detectors more than a decade ago. But the city has been pushing for the detectors to return, Jusino said. “It’s a fight that we struggle with each and every year,” he said, adding that he and the other principals in the building have been threatened with firing if “something major” should happen on the campus, which was at one time the most dangerous in the city.

Here’s the NYCLU’s full report, titled “Safety with Dignity: Alternatives to the Over-Policing of Schools”:

NYCLU Safety With Dignity

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.