Op-Ed: Mayoral Control Over the New York City Department of Education

By Shamona Kirkland, Parent Organizer for Families for Excellent Schools


Over the past several weeks, Mayor de Blasio has argued that he deserves a long-term renewal of control over the city’s schools.

While that broader debate rages on, there’s one area where the Mayor’s administration undoubtedly needs outside supervision: school violence.

For months, parents like me have called out the crisis of violence in our public schools. Instead of responding to our concerns and pledging to do more to keep our children out of harm’s way, Mayor de Blasio has touted misleading statistics to tell us our schools are safe.

But the latest numbers from the NYPD have made it clear that no amount of spin can hide the truth: our schools are getting dramatically less safe.

According to the NYPD, the city has found 1,751 weapons since July. That’s 26 percent more than last year at this time. The number of knives, boxcutters, and tasers have all gone up dramatically – tasers by an almost unthinkable 149%. Schools are supposed to a safe haven for kids, not a war zone waiting to happen.

When asked to respond to this surge in weapons, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said that schools are safer than ever. On the very same day, a student was stabbed in the neck at IS 399 in the Bronx. A few days before that, a student at Food and Finance High School was threatened with knives and locked inside a refrigerator. This doesn’t sound like a safe school system to me.

If the Mayor and his administration are going to continue to stonewall parents’ efforts to demand action, we need someone else that can enforce the law and stop this crisis of violence. We need an independent monitor to watch out for our children.

An independent monitor appointed by the legislature would be able to study the violence in our schools and implement changes to the Mayor’s failed policies. Their first task should be addressing the crisis of rising weapons in our schools.

The monitor will force the Department of Education to follow the laws that are supposed to protect students. School administrators and staff who currently do not feel a responsibility to create safe learning environments for their students will face much needed accountability and oversight.

Until the Mayor can be held accountable and regain our trust, we will keep fighting for the safety of our kids. Over 20,000 parents and concerned citizens have signed a petition calling for #SafeSchoolsNow. Together, we are calling on the leaders of our public schools to end the crisis of school violence.

For my kids, the children in my neighborhood, and the 1.1 million children across New York City – it’s time for bold action to reduce the number of weapons in our schools. Our kids can’t wait any longer.
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