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Know Your Rights
Source: Gotham Schools
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

NYCLU: First step to school safety is rejecting metal detectors

Many city
schools rely on metal detectors, security guards, and zero-tolerance policies
to keep discipline under control. They don’t have to, according to a new report
about alternate strategies to keep schools safe.

**The report, produced by the New York Civil
Liberties Union and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, highlights six
city high schools that stop problems before they start, help students resolve
their own disputes, and keep police out of all but the most serious incidents.
The schools range in size and how students are admitted, but they all post
higher-than-average graduation rates, the report says.

"There is no cookie-cutter solution" to replicating the gentler approach
to discipline, said NYCLU policy director Udi Ofer at a press conference today.
But he said getting rid of metal detectors, currently in place at about 130
city schools, is a good place to start. "Metal detectors do not make schools
safer," he said, adding that they create "flashpoints" for conflict between
students and police officers. Such conflicts cause students to be arrested
unnecessarily and undermine the authority of principals and teachers, the NYCLU
has argued.

The number
of police officers assigned to schools has increased in recent years, and the
Department of Education also launched an initiative two years ago that
surprises students with temporary metal detectors. Those strategies will not be
dropped, according to a department spokeswoman, Margie Feinberg. "We
wholeheartedly embrace discipline as an educational matter, but we will
continue to use all tools available to us," Feinberg said in a statement today.
The city says major school crimes have fallen by nearly half since the mayor
took office.

In its
report, the NYCLU also argues that schools should treat fewer infractions as
crimes; that fewer police officers should be assigned to schools; and that the
city should make school safety data more available. "The additional
recommendations cannot be successfully accomplished without first getting rid
of the metal detectors," Ofer told me.

A principal
at the press conference, William Jusino of Progress
High School in Brooklyn,
told me that it takes hard work to create a positive culture around school
safety. "Metal detectors are just one symbol, but symbols are important," he
said. "The removal of those negative symbols begins to let other folks know
that you’re really concerned about the community that you serve."

Progress, students are involved in setting discipline policy, and
administrators convinced the city to remove metal detectors more than a decade
ago. But the city has been pushing for the detectors to return, Jusino said.
"It’s a fight that we struggle with each and every year," he said, adding that
he and the other principals in the building have been threatened with firing if
"something major" should happen on the campus, which was at one time the most
dangerous in the city.

**Make the Road New York (MRNY) contributed significantly to the