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January 5, 2004


Mayor Mike and School Safety

Whether you agree with his chosen methods or not, it has to make you feel good about NYC to see Bloomberg taking such a prominent and bold stand on school safety. He's doing something rare for a politician: taking responsibility for a problem no one wants to address. He's kept it in the news for the last three weeks, and has outright apologized for his administration's ineffectual handling of the problem thus far. Beginning a few weeks ago, he began to tackle the problem head on, and today marked another day in the process: he identified the city's 12 most difficult schools and outlined his plan for dealing with them. Incredibly, these 12 schools are responsible for 13% of the criminal acts in the city's school system of 1,200 schools. As Bloomberg identified the schools and gave some details on the next phase, he passionately announced his commitment to the problem: "If I have to put a police officer next to every kid, we will do it," Bloomberg said. "We are not going to tolerate disruptive behavior or criminal behavior, period." Like I said, you might disagree with this seeming equation of bad students and criminals, but his efforts to do something dramatic about the problem should be appreciated.

When students in our public school do not feel safe inside the school building, something dramatic needs to be done. You can talk all you want about testing, and standards, and "kids today," and the color of bulletin boards, but it all starts with giving the kids an environment where, first and foremost, they can feel safe. Only then can we even begin to worry about what and how they are being taught. Bloomberg's "whatever it takes" attitude is the only appropriate mindset in this situation: something is so seriously and fundamentally wrong if our kids cannot even feel physically safe in the classroom. As a city and a nation, we should make this issue our top priority. As is often said but rarely truly considered, these kids are the future of this city, and in many neighborhoods they have been abandoned before they've even had a chance to define their future for themselves. I agree with Bloomberg: no matter how much it costs, or how radically we need to change things, it must be done, and it must be done now. There is little doubt that as the new system gets put into place some kids will be treated too harshly and some kids will slip through the cracks, but whatever happens, we can hope that Bloomberg and his administration will continue their candid approach to the issue and fix problems as they arise. To start the program and not evaluate it would be as big a sin as ignoring it completely, but Bloomberg seems to paying the issue more than just lip service.

School safety is one of only a handful of issues that we simply cannot afford to sweep under the rug and ignore, and it's a good sign that Bloomberg has finally put the issue in the spotlight where it belongs.

Here's some coverage of his announcement today, and the mayor's detailed press release from the event, which is filled with some pretty amazing statistics about the selected schools.

Here's our earlier post on the topic.

categories: Education, NYC
posted by adm at 10:50 PM | #