Advocacy Group Says New York City School Violence Rising


A newly-released analysis of New York City schools performed by a pro-charter advocacy group has found school violence to have risen by 23%, bringing into question school discipline policies used in city schools.

The report from Families for Excellent Schools claims a violent incident occurs in a city school every 4.5 minutes, with a weapon being recovered once every 28.4 minutes. It goes on to say that few students are unaffected by the increase, as 93% attend schools where a violent incident has occurred within the last year.

The report says that the data, which has been put together through reported incidents in a New York State Education Department database, is in direct contradiction to the statement made by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said that city schools have become safer since he has taken office.

However, officials for the Department of Education do not agree with the analysis, saying that the database used shows a wide range of incidents, including everything from minor interactions to severe altercations. They added that the number of violent incidents requiring the attention of the NYPD dropped 8% from roughly 51,000 to 47,000 between last year and the year before.

"This data is misleading," DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness said of the report. "Our top priority is to provide a safe and supportive environment for every student and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to keep our students safe," she added.

According to the state's Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting (VADIR), the recent analysis is based on the increase in violent interactions taking place at charter schools, which has shot up to 668 last year from 443 the year before, a 54% increase. Meanwhile, public schools have seen a 22% increase, up from 12,545 two years ago to 15,266 last year, writes Lisa Colangelo for The Daily News.

The mayor's State of the City address noted crime in city schools to be down by 29% and suspensions down 36%.

De Blasio has been working to overhaul the discipline and suspension policies in use in the city, which has been criticized by civil liberties advocates who call it a "school-to-prison pipeline" for black and Hispanic boys.

School safety is being stressed by his administration, who are also looking for ways to reduce discipline methods in use and focusing instead on restorative justice practices.

In order to deal with this, the DOE is requiring schools to have a "de-escalation plan" in place for violent or disruptive situations that could threaten the safety of those within the school, as well as additional de-escalation training for teachers and an increase in the number of guidance counselors needed at high-risk schools, writes Amy Zimmer for DNAInfo.

Meanwhile, teacher-led group Educators 4 Excellence is pushing de Blasio to make good on his commitments to offer additional funding for these supports. In particular, the group is looking for additional guidance counselors, an increase to the restorative justice program, and a process in place for removing the body scanners currently in use in schools.

"Restorative approaches to discipline and a focus on social emotional learning make students' lives better and make them more effective learners," said Rosalynn Bristol, an eighth grade teacher at I.S. 211 in Carnasie.

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