Posted on November 28, 2017
For Safer City Schools, More Counselors, Fewer Cops
Originally Posted by Gotham Gazette on November 22, 2017
Written by Roberto Cabañas & Kate Terenzi
— Kate Terenzi (@kterenzi) November 22, 2017
On Tuesday, New York City Council confronted the question of how to create safe schools in a hearing that included testimony from the NYPD, community groups, and, most importantly, young people. Young people made clear that punitive and zero tolerance policies are ineffective to address conflict and often harm the students they are intended to support. The Urban Youth Collaborative and the Center for Popular Democracy released a policy brief, “Young People’s Vision for Safe, Supportive, and Inclusive Schools,” which recommends dramatically increasing the number of counselors, providing comprehensive mental health supports, and infusing all schools with restorative practices. Absent from this list are metal detectors and police. Research shows that policing in schools does not reduce incidents of bullying or fighting. And young people feel significantly less safe. These practices also push young people out of schools entirely. Our schools can and must move away from policies and practices that are ineffective and dehumanize and criminalize young people. Young people’s experiences navigating bullying, conflict, and responses that offer little in the way of resolutions, such as the state-violence perpetrated by arrests, have led them to reimagine school safety by prioritizing what they need most: mental health care; guidance counselors and social workers; and restorative practices. All of their solutions are also backed by research. Studies show that lower student-to-guidance counselor ratios reduce disciplinary incidents in schools, including ones involving weapons, and students and teachers report feeling safer. New York City must implement a comprehensive mental health service continuum to connect school-based services with community and hospital-based care. In New York City, antiquated and misguided responses to mental health issues continue to utilize the NYPD as first responders to mental health crises in schools and communities. Another recommendation is to infuse restorative practices into all high needs schools to prevent conflict. When conflict does occur, restorative practices emphasize a rigorous process of holding each other accountable through communal dialogue. Our schools can and must move away from policies and practices that are ineffective and dehumanize and criminalize young people.