Safety Switch

With police report requirement unclear, safety transfers hard to come by

Of the many concerns raised by last week’s fatal stabbing outside I.S. 117 in the Bronx, one traces back to the day before the crime itself, when neighbors say the father of suspect Noel Estevez requested a safety transfer for his son.

As the investigation into 14-year-old Timothy Crump’s death continues, it’s far from clear whether allowing Estevez to transfer might have helped avert the assault. But the transfer request does put a spotlight on a process that advocates say places too high a bar for families seeking to keep their children safe.

Safety transfers are designed to remove students from threatening environments where they face bullying or harassment. The Department of Education would not provide data on the number of requested or approved safety transfers across the city.

But according to Nick Sheehan, who works on the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children, safety transfers are “really challenging to get.” The biggest stumbling block, he said, is the required police report, which the city’s regulations list among the required documents for a safety transfer.

Parents might not have time to file a report, he said, and “historic distrust” between the police and students’ communities might also discourage families. An even bigger problem, he said, is that students might feel unsafe at school even before a crime has been committed against them.

“Sometimes the safety concern doesn’t rise to a level of criminal activity [that would be filed in a police report], it’s just ongoing bullying and harassment,” Sheehan said.

Pamela Wheaton, a managing editor at InsideSchools, said she’s heard of police refusing to give students reports because at that point, they hadn’t been victims of a crime. “It seems to me like a Catch-22,” she said.

Statements from the city imply that parents might not need a police report at all. A spokeswoman from the Department of Education said the city collaborates with schools and parents in situations when there is no police report, though she did not explain how this would work.

The department’s priority, she added, is to ensure that students have a safe school environment. Chancellor Carmen Fariña echoed this sentiment this week in her newsletter to principals, encouraging them to create “a clear, defined policy” to deal with bullying.

Sheehan said he has heard from department officials that not all incidents of bullying merit police reports, even though they warrant safety transfers. But the department’s website still lists the police report as a requirement.

With or without a report, the process for obtaining a transfer grew more complicated in 2003, when the city rolled out a new high school admissions procedure to allow more school choice.

Previously, students could transfer if the principals of both schools agreed to the switch. After high school admissions became a centralized process, though, that request needed to go through the Department of Education, and transfers were approved only if they fit into a handful of categories, including medical hardships, travel hardships, and safety hardships.

Under the new system, a student can request a safety transfer if “it is determined that the student’s continued presence in the school is unsafe for the student,” according to Chancellor’s Regulation A-449.

A parent must first go to the principal, who will recommend to an official in the Office of Student Enrollment whether the safety transfer should be approved. The principal is required to file four forms: a safety transfer intake form, a summary of investigation form, a school occurrence report, and a police report.

From that point, the Office of Student Enrollment has a week to get back to the family with its decision. The office, not the family, has the final say in choosing the student’s new school.

Advocates for Children says dozens of parents call its hotline every year inquiring about safety transfers. The organization recorded at least 36 such calls this school year, though officials there said that number does not include callers who wanted a transfer but did not specify why.

While the department did not say whether policy changes would follow last week’s stabbing, Wheaton hopes that the city will be prompted to act.

“Maybe this will lead to another reconsideration of that [safety] transfer request,” she said. “Maybe that’s one of the things you drop; you don’t require a police report because that’s another hoop for people to jump through.”

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”