A 2018 Education Trust report found that Black students are disproportionately suspended from New York City schools. Three years later, the city is planning to do something about it.
In an effort to properly manage and interact with students of color and those with disabilities, approximately 5,000 school safety agents (SSAs) will replace police officers in schools, as reported by The Guardian. These agents, who will serve as advocates inside the school, will be advised by the Department of Education instead of past school safety officers being supervised by the local police department.
New York City is just one of 33 districts to defund their school police force, according to Education Week. Other districts include Columbus, Ohio, Oakland, and Madison, Wisconsin. These advancements come after the killing of George Floyd, as schools express their support for the Black lives within their systems. According to Blavity, these efforts are a result of “de-escalating harsh punishments that disproportionately target students of color.”
Kellsie Sayers, director of restorative practices at the Center for Court Innovation, explained the effectiveness of SSAs in schools to The Guardian. During the 2018-19 school year, Sayers launched a restorative justice pilot program in five Brooklyn public schools, in partnership with the Department of Education.
“School safety officers were actually a big part of what we did. They are adults who aren’t limited in their time because they don’t have classes to run,” Sayer told The Guardian. “They often had the strongest relationships with the students in our school, different from the teaching staff or administration. They knew when a fight was going to happen because they could see in the kid’s face.”
New York City’s schools will make this transition in June 2022.
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