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Open Letter to Mayor de Blasio on School Safety Agents

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza
City Hall
New York NY 10007

Dear Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza,

I’m writing to call upon you to make school safety agents independent of the Police Department. They should be transferred to the Department of Education or another City agency and should receive training that is more relevant to the schooling context.

The horrific instances of police brutality that we’ve witnessed in recent weeks and years require that we re-examine everything we are doing so that we can purge our country of the institutional racism that is so destructive to the hopes and aspirations of our nation’s people of color. In furtherance of that goal, many members of the Success Academy community have expressed to me their belief that school safety agents should no longer be part of the police department, and I agree with them.

Since 37 of Success’s schools are co-located in public school buildings, our students have daily contact with school safety agents. While we have good relations with our agents, their status as police officers hinders those relations, particularly in the current climate. Moreover, the skills school safety agents need differ from those of a police officer. They must be trained in de-escalation and dealing with the issues faced by children and youth. Breaking up a fight between a couple of second graders or calming down a student who is under stress due to family issues is fundamentally different than stopping a bank robbery or arresting a violent criminal. While the police will inevitably be required in some instances where the safety of students or school personnel is threatened, we should start with the presumption that our students are children in need of help, not criminals in need of policing.

It bears observation that school safety agents weren’t part of the police department until 1999, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani transferred them over the strong objections of Chancellors Ramon Cortines and Rudy Crew. Over a year ago, your own School Diversity Advisory Group advised you to transfer school safety agents back to the Department of Education. In light of recent events, that recommendation was particularly prescient. I urge you to reconsider your rejection of that recommendation.

Eva Moskowitz
Founder & CEO
Success Academy

Written by Success Academy June 8, 2020

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