OP-ED: IMAGINE POLICE-FREE SCHOOLS: THERE’S A BETTER WAY TO PROTECT CHILDREN

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
April 7, 2021
Contact: Yuridia Peña, [email protected], (718) 790-0837

ICYMI
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS OP-ED: IMAGINE POLICE-FREE SCHOOLS: THERE’S A BETTER WAY TO PROTECT CHILDREN

By: NYC Mayoral Candidate Shaun Donovan

During a roundtable discussion I hosted announcing my criminal justice platform, one of our panelists, Stephanie Pacheco of Teens Take Charge, shared her deeply personal experiences regarding the overpolicing in her school and others, stating that “police have absolutely no place in any school environment.”

“All the millions and millions of dollars we are spending on having cops in schools should be reallocated into providing actual resources for students in need,” she added.

I commend Stephanie for her advocacy. Providing our 1.1 million public students a safe learning environment is our utmost priority, but she and many other students of color feel overpoliced, and the data, time and time again, tells us why they are feeling that way. Black and Latino students account for 90% of arrests and summonses in city schools, and in nearly all 50 states, Black students are arrested at disproportionately higher rates when compared to white students.

Another panelist during our roundtable — Shanequa Charles, executive director of Miss Abbie’s Kids — painted a similarly unjust picture, sharing that most young people in her community are exposed to the criminal justice system before they are even teenagers.

This is because far too often, our society turns to policing as a panacea to many of the problems plaguing our city and our country. From homelessness to homeroom, we have continued to mistakenly call on police to address social and community issues they are simply not equipped to handle. And in doing so, particularly when it comes to our children and our schools, we set up our students, especially our students of color, for a lifetime of setbacks and a cycle of trauma and incarceration.

By eliminating on-campus arrests, incident reporting and handcuffing (except in extremely limited circumstances where student and educator safety is actually and immediately in danger), and providing our students with trained professionals better equipped to serve their needs, we will keep our kids safe while combating this injustice.

That’s why, if elected mayor, I intend to invest in creating what I call “positivity, prevention and relationship response coordinators,” trained in child development, de-escalation and an understanding of how trauma and life experiences impact behavior. They would replace police, starting with schools that employ multiple school resource officers and/or school safety agents. Current resource officers and safety agents will be supported in transitioning to these new roles if they are interested and ready to participate in the necessary training, or in being absorbed into other roles in the New York Police Department if they prefer to remain in law enforcement.

School districts in cities like Minneapolis, Oakland, Denver and Portland have implemented this strategy and made significant progress in creating safer and more inclusive environments for all students and staff.

But we cannot stop there.

As we right-size our criminal justice system and reimagine our public safety system as one that is accountable and community-driven, it is critical that we reinvest in marginalized communities in order to tackle the underlying conditions that lead many of our city’s most vulnerable to come into contact with the criminal justice system in the first place — such as lack of access to affordable housing, culturally responsive primary care and mental health services, quality education and economic opportunities. To that end, my administration will utilize the savings generated by removing police from schools and other similar policies to invest roughly $3 billion by the end of our first term towards community-focused public safety and racial justice initiatives.

By reducing the role of law enforcement officers in our learning institutions and across our city, focusing their efforts on targeting serious crimes and the out-of-state gun pipeline — rather than perpetuating the school to prison pipeline — and investing in the communities that need it most, I am confident that we can put the ‘justice’ back in criminal justice and make our schools a place for learning, not law enforcement, while keeping our students safe.

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