The recent fatal stabbing of a student in a Bronx high school has prompted questions about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s approach to safety and discipline in New York City schools.
But the police department factors heavily in that debate, due to a little-known agreement from 1998 that put them in charge of school safety.
What that agreement actually says has been a bit of a mystery: It hasn’t been widely available to the public. For a time, it wasn’t clear whether it even still existed. Chalkbeat recently obtained a copy of the document from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, which you can read below.
Advocates have pushed de Blasio to update the nearly two-decade old “memorandum of understanding” between the police and education departments, saying it should reflect the city’s current efforts to reduce suspensions and arrests. An updated agreement would lock in place the city’s new, less-punitive approach to discipline, formally replacing the harsh “zero tolerance” policies that were in favor in 1998 when the original agreement was made, advocates argue.
In a report last year, a school-discipline task force convened by the mayor suggested major revisions that would limit the role of police and safety agents in responding to non-criminal student misbehavior, and make clear that they should attempt to de-escalate situations before resorting to the use of handcuffs or “other law enforcement tactics.”
Advocates, city leaders and the police have been negotiating an updated agreement, which is expected to be released soon. For now, however, the original document still stands.
City officials had insisted it expired in 2002 — but, in fact, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein had quietly renewed it in 2003. That extension only came to light publicly six years later through digging by a state lawmaker, prompting advocates to blast the renewal as “secret.”
“Nobody could find it,” said Kathleen DeCataldo, executive director of the Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children and co-chair of the mayoral task force that called for an updated agreement.
Among other things, it calls for principals to “promptly report” anything that happens on campus that “may be criminal in nature.” It also makes clear that nothing in the agreement should be construed to limit the power of the police department in schools.
The agreement, DeCataldo recently told Chalkbeat, is “asking for a criminal justice response to misconduct in schools.”
You can read the full agreement below.