New York City to limit circumstances when police officers can enter schools

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza unveiled a new plan regarding school safety Thursday.

One of the biggest changes is that the city is limiting when NYPD officers can enter schools, particularly for minor offenses that could be safely handled by school staff.

The administration had been exploring ways to decrease police presence in schools, claiming the vast majority of arrests and summonses issued are to black and Hispanic students.

Under the new policy, police will be limited from arresting or summoning students "whenever possible" for low-level offenses such as marijuana possession, disorderly conduct, spitting, or graffiti.

School staff will be discouraged from calling school safety agents for infractions like uniform violations, cutting class, lateness, smoking, lying, or gambling. Minor misbehavior is to be handled without police involvement, if possible.

The police patrol guide will be revised to "strictly limit" the times students can be arrested in school for off-property incidents, only permitted for felonies, sex offenses, and "crimes where there is an immediate risk of escape or where the perpetrator is apprehended in hot pursuit."

Training will be expanded on de-escalation and conflict resolution among school safety agents and officers.

It is the first change in recent memory in how NYPD interacts with students inside schools. The de Blasio administration has previously come under fire for other attempts to limit law enforcement initiatives in schools - such as scanners.

The NYPD has authority over roughly 5,000 school safety agents. The unarmed agents are posted inside schools, and they contact uniformed police into schools if necessary.

City officials have maintained the response time for uniformed officers to schools is almost immediate.

The New York Civil Liberties Union hailed what it called a landmark agreement between the NYPD and Department of Education.

"Police presence in schools and a zero-tolerance disciplinary approach make students feel like criminals in their own classrooms," said Johanna Miller, director of the Education Policy Center. "Today's announcement is about treating kids like kids, allowing them to recover from mistakes, and teaching them the tools to manage emotions and behavior. By adopting these recommendations from the Leadership Team, the city is taking real a step toward ending the School to Prison Pipeline."

Education officials also announced that for the first time, all students will have access to Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and Restorative Justice (RJ) practices and, when needed, earlier intervention from clinical social workers.

The investment is designed to help school communities be more proactive in changing school culture and climate, and the Department of Education will provide all elementary schools with access to an SEL curriculum in partnership with National University System's Sanford Harmony program.

It will also build RJ practices into all middle and high schools, providing students with the tools they need to name their emotions, overcome conflicts and repair relationships.

"We've heard from students, teachers and parents across our city, and as a result, we're revolutionizing our school system and giving our kids the social-emotional tools they need to ensure they develop into healthy adults," de Blasio said. "I'm proud that New York City is leading the way in our schools, using research-backed methods that encourage the whole growth of every student."

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