DRAD Joins Over 110 Organizations Demanding NYC Cancel Recent Hiring of 475 School Safety Officers

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Dear Mayor de Blasio & Commissioner Shea:

The revelation made during a City Council Education Committee hearing on February 18, 2021, that the NYPD is planning to hire 475 new school safety officers, at the expense of $20 million, is outrageous.

The pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing racial disparities in education for Black, Latinx, and other students of color throughout NYC schools. Many NYC schools don’t have nurses or restorative justice programs – and it’s widely recognized that system-wide there is an inadequate number of counselors, social workers and educational staff. Hiring officers instead of addressing needs that educate and nurture students is the wrong move – and we are calling on you to cancel these planned hires.

NYC already spends $451 million on school safety officers who police New York City’s public schools. To allocate an additional $20 million to hire 475 new school safety officers instead of increasing access to social, emotional, and mental health supports for young people is unacceptable.

We are calling on you to:

  • Immediately cancel the projected hiring of 475 news school safety officers and reallocate those monies to support the educational and wellness needs of students and their families;
  • Center the leadership and needs of youth in schools to end the school to prison pipeline, including ending the criminalization and abuse of Black and Brown youth in schools while building safe, supportive, and inclusive schools; and
  • Create a plan to remove policing and invasive security measures out of schools and that centers social, emotional, and mental health needs of students returning from a public health pandemic.

Students in New York City have made it clear—they need access to high-quality educational, social, emotional and mental health resources, not more policing, especially now. As you know, the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing racial disparities in education. Black, Latinx, and students of color have been less likely to be able to connect to remote learning resources. Students living within New York City’s shelters had little to no access to internet during the worst months of the pandemic, a situation so egregious it prompted a lawsuit against the City. Investing the $20 million directly in educational and wellness resources would better serve all students, than investing in more policing. For example, according to analysis by Girls for Gender Equity, with $20 million, the City could hire more than 200 school nurses, 200 school psychologists, or 200 counselors. Any of those are better choices than hiring more officers. Many of the signers of this letter joined a campaign last year for #NYCBudgetJustice and achieved commitments from the Mayor and the City Council that the FY21 budget would include a $1 billion cut from the NYPD’s budget, to redirect to core needs in communities of color. Unfortunately, the FY21 budget that was approved last year by the City Council used funny math and budget tricks to avoid reallocating at least $1 billion from the NYPD4 to core needs in communities of color, in spite of Mayor de Blasio’s claims otherwise. One of the Mayor’s most egregious false budget claims last year was that school safety officers would be removed from the FY21 NYPD budget5. While moving school safety officers from the NYPD to the Department of Education was never a demand of the #PoliceFreeSchools movement, it also never happened in the FY21 budget. The current plan to hire more officers for schools in the context of last year’s false budget claims by your administration and the ongoing pandemic is hard to comprehend.

Last year, a hiring freeze was imposed on almost all city agencies except the NYPD and programs that could help communities are facing huge potential cuts in the coming budget (e.g. $40 million from school allocation memorandums and $45 million in reduced funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program). The more than 5,000 existing school safety officers is already a larger force than the police departments of many cities across the country. To spend $20 million on hiring 475 new school safety officers while we are still fighting to survive the coronavirus pandemic is a cruel misallocation of resources.

Young people deserve culturally responsive education, wellness resources and restorative justice programs in all schools — not more policing.

We are calling on you to immediately cancel the 475 new school safety officer hires and reallocate the related funding to educational resources, the emotional well-being of our students, and services that will help them and their families during and after the pandemic.