The City Council held a heated hearing Thursday over the future of school safety agents — with one councilman calling the proposed removal of NYPD safety agents “absurd.”
Council member Daneek Miller — a father of five city public school graduates who represents southeast Queens — defended their role Thursday.
“To think that we’re going to remove these folks from the building is just absurd,” he said. “Whatever sense of safety and security these young folks have often comes by virtue of these women from their community.”
The unarmed agents are 90 percent black and Hispanic, 70 percent female and mostly native New Yorkers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said last June that budgetary control over school security would shift from the NYPD to the Department of Education by next year.
Miller said that his own children and members of his district do not view the current agents as hostile figures.
“When you talk to the children in my district, in my household, and in the community, and you talk about school safety agents, at the mention of that, there is a glow,” he said.
While the agents operate under the auspices of the NYPD, Miller said that association often dissolves in the minds of city students.
“When we walk into a building, we don’t necessarily see that blue uniform, an extension of the police department, but see an extension of our community,” he said. “And oftentimes, the only extension of that community that you’re going to see.”
But others on the council tried to paint a darker portrait of the agents and their role.
Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, asserted that the agents are by definition extensions of the NYPD, a body she called a “paramilitary” organization.
While she praised individual agents, Rosenthal reasoned that they didn’t belong in schools in their current form.
“Why would we want anyone who is part of a paramilitary organization to be in our schools?” she said.
Others contended that the agents create a hostile and criminalized atmosphere in city schools that are 70 percent African American and Hispanic.
Several students testified Thursday that the agents — along with metal detectors — set a negative tone for city kids.
City Council education committee chairman Mark Treyger backs the transfer of school security to the DOE and said that more resources should be dedicated to social workers and guidance counselors.
“A 7-year-old having a bad day should not be an NYPD issue,” he said in making his point.
Treyger said that principals should have more authority over school operations and that excising the NYPD would help them do so.
But a representative from the principals’ union criticized the council for failing to engage them while devising their vision.
Council of School Supervisors and Administrators Associate First Vice President Rosemarie Sinclair said Thursday that responsibility for school security was handed to the NYPD decades ago due to unsafe classroom conditions.
“What gives us any reason to believe the DOE is any better positioned to take this responsibility on today?” she asked.
Sinclair said that her members have been given no information about the City Council’s plans for school safety in the nine months since Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the shift in authority to the DOE.
Safety agent union boss Greg Floyd echoed that complaint Thursday and had several heated exchanges with both Treyger and Rosenthal.
Floyd stressed that safety concerns in city schools are real — and that the proposed minimization of his members will exacerbate them.
“Why do some people think the solution lies in knee-jerk, politically correct reactions that ultimately harm the very population they want to protect?” Floyd said.
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