A Look At School Safety
In New York City, the over-policing of public schools only intensifies the School to Prison Pipeline. In order to get to school every day, approximately 100,000 New York City school children must pass through a gauntlet of metal detectors, bag searches and pat downs administered by police personnel who are inadequately trained, insufficiently supervised, and often belligerent, aggressive and disrespectful. This burden weighs most heavily on the city’s most vulnerable children, who are disproportionately poor, black and Latino.
The over-policing of New York City schools, paired with school zero tolerance policies, drives youth directly towards the juvenile and criminal justice systems. While the city over-invests in expensive policing measures for schools that are disproportionately low income, black and Latino, these schools remain under-resourced in fundamental areas that harm student learning. Students in these schools also are more likely to be subjected to zero tolerance policies that involve police personnel in minor, non-criminal incidents and rely too heavily on suspensions.
A look at school safety in New York City 1:
1. At the start of the 2008-2009 school year there were 5,055 school safety agents (SSAs) and 191 armed police officers in New York City’s public schools. These numbers would make the NYPD’s School Safety Division the fifth largest police force in the country—larger than the police forces of Washington D.C., Detroit, Boston or Las Vegas. That same year, there were 3,152 guidance counselors in New York City schools.
2. At least 99,000 students pass through permanent metal detectors to enter their school buildings each day.
3. Seventy-seven percent of incidents in which police are involved in schools with permanent metal detectors are non-criminal incidents.
4. Since 2002, the city’s budget for police and security equipment in schools has increased by 65 percent to more than $221 million.
5. New York City has more SSAs per student than other cities have police officers per citizen. For example, New York City has twice as many SSAs per student than the city of Houston has police officers per citizen.
6. During the 2004-2005 school year, 82 percent of children attending high schools with permanent metal detectors were black or Latino, compared to the 71 percent average citywide. Approximately 60 percent of students at those schools are living in poverty.
7. The city spent an average of $9,602 on each student at a school with permanent metal detectors, compared to the citywide average of $11,282 per student. At schools with metal detectors and more than 3,000 students, the city spent only $8,066 per student.
8. High schools with permanent metal detectors issued 48 percent more suspensions than schools without metal detectors.
Click here to download graph of Number of Police Officers in Major Cities vs. SSAs in NYC Schools (PDF).
Click here to download graph of Police Involvement in NYC Metal Detector Schools by Type of Incident (PDF).
Click here to download graph of NYC Superintendent Suspensions by Year (PDF).
Click here to download graph of Enrollment of Black and Latino Students by Type of School (PDF).
Click here to download graph of Overcrowding in NYC Schools by Type of School (PDF).
Click here to download graph of Yearly Spent Per NYC Student by Type of School (PDF).
1Information on this page was compiled from a variety of sources including New York Police Department (March 2005-March 2008), Operational Commands Performing Enforcement Functions; The United Federation of Teachers; Mayor’s Management Reports (2005-2008); Insideschools.org; New York Civil Liberties Union (March 2007), Criminalizing the Classroom: The Over-Policing of New York City Schools; Annenberg Institute for School Reform, New York Civil Liberties Union and Make the Road New York (July 2009), Criminalizing the Classroom: Alternatives to the Over-Policing of Schools; and original research by the New York Civil Liberties Union. For more resources and research information, email Johanna Miller.