Volume 73, Number 43 | February 25 - March 2, 2004


Mayor made the right call on school safety

A month after Mayor Bloomberg assigned a task force of 150 police officers to 12 public schools considered to be among the city’s most crime plagued, it seems a good time to ask whether the plan was prudent and is working.

Locally, Washington Irving High School, on Irving Pl. between E. 16th and 17th Sts., made the mayor’s list of dangerous schools. The Gramercy school received seven officers from the task force.

Whether Washington Irving is really among the city’s most violent schools is a question to be debated. Part of the reason it may have been selected is because it is in Manhattan, whereas most of the other targeted schools are in the outer boroughs. Yet, there is no denying there have been troubling incidents.

Within the past year a chair was hurled out a window, allegedly during a play wrestling match, injuring — luckily, not killing — a pedestrian. Since the implementation of the new security plan, one of the officers had a finger broken when a girl she was escorting to the principal’s office struggled with her.

Clearly, having to post a full complement of officers in a school is an extreme step. Yet, the mayor has made the tough decision that it must be done.

Bloomberg has already shown he’s not afraid to shake up the system. He was able to gain control of the schools where a succession of mayors before him failed. Yet, the mayor admitted that in taking control of the system some areas fell through the cracks; one was school discipline and safety.

He responded with admirable speed, though, after complaints about violence rose, and took the blame. He acted forcefully and decisively to rectify the situation.

And yet, putting police officers in schools in such large numbers, while a necessary step for the moment, shouldn’t be a permanent solution. Making schools safe for students, teachers, administrators and other staff, without requiring such a heavy police presence, should be the goal.

But students must be allowed to learn without disruption, intimidation or fear of violence. Dangerous troublemakers must not be allowed to keep returning to a school to roam halls and carry on a reign of terror. And when these troubled youth are caught in wrongdoing and penalized they must be sent to appropriate detention rooms and properly supervised so that fights and problems don’t merely shift locations. And they must be removed from schools if they pose too much of a threat.

Students at Washington Irving this week gave a Villager reporter mixed reactions to the beefed-up security. Some were thankful they can now study in an atmosphere without fear; others felt that the officers were singling them out and harassing them.

Hopefully, at some point not too far in the future, the extra officers won’t be needed anymore and all the schools will be safe. Until then, we support the mayor’s action. Dangerous schools rob students not only of their safety — but of their futures and their ability to attain their full potential.


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