In the Bronx, Parents Confront Education Dept. and NYPD About School Safety and Discipline Measures
Corrine Lestch, New York Daily News, 06/29/2012
Alith Garcia doesn’t want her 6-year-old daughter to pass through metal detectors at summer camp.
But since the camp is housed in a junior high school in a high-crime area, little Aliana has to put her bag through a scanner and walk through a detector to start her day.
“I feel like (kids) are desensitized to police uniforms and anything related to jails and institutions,” said Garcia, 41, of Claremont.
Parents brought varied concerns about school safety and discipline to a meeting this week held by the New Settlement Parent Action Committee.
About 100 parents and community members faced Assistant Chief Brian Conroy, commanding officer of the NYPD’s School Safety Division, and Elayna Konstan, head of the city Department of Education’s Office of School and Youth Development.
Among the attendees was a woman who broke down in tears as she recounted what her 9-year-old grandson’s principal told her: the next time he acts out in class, he will be arrested, and an ambulance will take him away.
“First you have to investigate what problem the child has, have meetings with parents and then look for help,” said the aggrieved grandmother. She requested that her name be withheld because she is trying to gain custody of the third-grade boy, who is seeing a psychiatrist.
Andy Artz, staff attorney in the education law unit of Legal Services NYC - Bronx, said in an interview that he has attended more than 100 suspension hearings in the last three years.
“The burden of proof is really low in these hearings,” said Artz. “The school has to basically bring one person who said ‘I saw the student do this,’ so it’s very common for the charges to be sustained.”
Artz added that the DOE’s discipline code, which is released each year, offers nothing to compel schools to change course.
“If a school has been using suspension as a reflex for years, then there is nothing in the new discipline code that would force a school to use guidance interventions,” he said.
Conroy admitted that the department can do a better job explaining to students and parents why more than 5,000 safety agents are needed in city schools - nearly 1,000 of them in the Bronx, according to statistics from 2010.
“We need to be more courteous and open to working with people here to try to improve the way we handle ourselves in schools,” he said.
An activist asked whether a 12-year-old girl who scribbled on her desk warrants an arrest. She was handcuffed and taken to the local precinct in 2010.
“We hope to do a better job of determining incidents,” Conroy said. “I would think it’s totally inappropriate to arrest a student who writes on a desk. Most things we arrest for is student-on-student contact. There’s a balance here. If we can resolve that in a positive manner, we are all for that.”
Origninally published here