The Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC), a grassroots coalition of students fighting for transformative education reform in New York City, arranged a banner that read “#PoliceFreeSchools Now!” and flew over Rockaway Beach in eight loops on Sunday, June 21.
The event kicked off UYC’s week of action in calling for 100 percent police-free schools — a topic that has been reignited during the last few weeks of racial justice and police brutality protests followed by the police killing of George Floyd. The group is also calling to reject any transfer of police from NYPD to the Department of Education.
“Police do not make schools safe. They make students feel like they are in prison. Students come to school to learn and not be criminalized by the color of their skin. You can’t give metal detectors only to schools that have predominantly students of color with none in white schools. We need more guidance counselors and social workers, and no police officers roaming our halls every day,” said Keneisha Buckley, a youth leader with the Rockaway Youth Task Force. “For many students, school can be a sanctuary. But when you come to school and are criminalized, it feels like nowhere is safe. For the benefit of our students, the DOE needs to defund School Safety Agents and metal detectors, and put that funding into our students. Enough is enough — we need police-free schools now.”
The coalition is bringing attention to the disparity in disciplinary treatment Black students receive in New York City. According to a Chalkbeat report, a city analysis found Black students receive harsher and more frequent suspension and punishment for the same infractions as their peers.
Amid the calls to remove NYPD from schools by students, educators, elected officials and activists, Mayor Bill de Blasio has maintained that he does not agree with the idea.
“The fact is, there’s a conversation going on right now. I appreciate that there are some who think school safety should be taken out of NYPD. I don’t think they’re right,” de Blasio said during his daily press conference on Friday, June 19.
Queens Councilman Donovan Richards and Brooklyn Councilman Mark Treyger, the chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee, called for the city to transfer control of the 5,000 school safety agents from the NYPD to the DOE last week, according to the New York Daily News.
But UYC believes even that isn’t enough to address the issue.
The coalition is calling for City Hall to divert the $450 million school security budget to guidance counselors, nurses, restorative justice practices and expanded mental health services.
The UYC coalition is made up of members from the Future of Tomorrow of Cypress Hills Local Development and Corporation, Make the Road New York, the Rockaway Youth Task Force and Sistas and Brothas United of the Northwest Bronx.