Making Sure Our Public Schools Are Safe
Our public schools are for learning—and if some students don't want to learn, that doesn't give them the right to rob their classmates of the opportunity. Over the last two years, we've driven serious crime in the schools down some 23%; this year; assaults are down more than 8%. Nevertheless, one crime in school is one too many. We will not let a small number of schools spiral out of control, or allow a small group of students to sabotage the education of others by committing crimes or through bullying and intimidation. That's why, when the schools reopen after the winter holiday break, we'll implement a new and tougher school safety plan. It's an initiative to deal with problem schools and problem students that I presented in a speech recently.
This is what I mean by problem schools: some 15% of high schools and middle schools account for roughly half of all reported school crimes. And just as we have on the streets of New York, we are immediately implementing an "Operation Impact" for the schools where crime and disorder are most serious. We'll increase the number of school safety agents—and double the number of police officers—working in those schools. Teachers and parent volunteers will be expected to help maintain order in the hallways and cafeterias. And the Principals in those schools will be held accountable for improving safety and stopping disruptive behavior. They'll get the help they need to turn their schools around. But if they don't succeed, they'll be asked to look for work elsewhere.
Next, as to problem students. There are those who commit petty offenses, those who are chronically disruptive, and those who commit serious crimes. And from now on, there will be an effective response to each level of offense. Low-level disruptive behavior will lead to in-school detention or school service; failure to comply will lead to suspensions. For chronically disruptive students—those receiving two or more suspensions within a 24-month period—a third offense will trigger an immediate suspension resulting in removal from school to new Off-Site Suspension Centers. Furthermore, there will be a new, zero-tolerance policy for students who commit the most serious crimes—those involving the possession of weapons or resulting in serious bodily injury. Those students will be immediately and permanently removed from their schools and placed in a "Second Opportunity School" for up to a year, after which an appropriate alternative placement will be made.
We're also going to get the schools, the courts and other elements of the justice system to work together more closely. Probation officers will be assigned to "Impact Schools" to work with students on probation and under court supervision. Department of Education officials will also be assigned to every courthouse in the city, to make sure that judges and probation officers have the school records they need to make the right bail and sentencing decisions. In a nutshell, we're increasing accountability, consistency and security in our schools. Because if we want better academic performance in the schools, discipline and decorum come first. And let me wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.#