BY RODNEY D GANTT
Following a report of rising high school graduation rates citywide, New York City schools continue to show signs of improvement as recent data showed the number of school-based criminal incidents has declined, with city officials looking to expand existing initiatives to enhance school safety for students.
Criminal incidents including issued summonses and arrests recorded by school safety officials dropped seven percent during the 2015 to 2016 school year, according to a quarterly report released by the city’s Police Department under the Student Safety Act.
The report showed that the number school-related arrests dropped from 430 in the second quarter to 373 in the fourth quarter and the number of summonses issued dropped slightly to 254 in the fourth quarter, compared to 259 in the second quarter. The number school safety officers injured and complaints made against safety agents also decreased.
“Schools are safe havens for communities and we are encouraged by the continued decrease in school-related arrests and summonses,” said Fariña. “We are providing students with extra guidance counselors, trainings on preventative techniques and tools to take ownership and address misbehavior.”
In a continued effort to provide a safer school environment, the city’s Department of Education and the NYPD plan to expand two citywide programs to help struggling students find alternative solutions.
The Warning Card program, launched in the fall of 2015, allows NYPD officers and school safety agents to issue “warning cards” at their discretion to students, ages 16 and older, instead of summonses for low level infractions, such as possession of small amounts of marijuana and disorderly conduct. The program is seen as an alternative to the court system and allows school officials to intervene with other disciplinary actions.
Since its inception in 37 schools across five Bronx campuses, including Evander Childs, John F. Kennedy and Herbert H. Lehman High School, the program resulted in a 14 percent decrease in the number of summonses issued for those low level infractions during the 2015 to 2016 school year.
Moving forward, the NYPD and DOE plan to expand the program to an additional 34 schools, including Richmond Hill High School, Brooklyn’s James Madison High School, Flushing’s John Bowne and others.
The School Justice Program will also be expanded this year. Aimed at “reducing unnecessary arrests,” the program provides free legal assistance to students in clearing summonses.
Introduced at Evander Childs Educational Campus in November 2016, the program has partnered with the nonprofit legal organization Youth Represent and will be available citywide.