Chancellor Joel Klein’s Memo on School Safety to Principals in the Principal’s Weekly

September 2006

Dear Colleagues:

Tackling violence, bullying, and disorder at schools isn’t just a simple matter of keeping people safe and secure. Safety is a prerequisite to learning. If our kids are not safe as they walk through the hallways and sit in the classrooms of our schools they cannot possibly learn what they need to become successful students.

Safety is something that all New Yorkers — from parents and elected officials to union representatives and educators — care about intensely. Everyone wants to do whatever works to protect the students, teachers, and principals who work and learn each day in our schools.

It is critical that we build on our success by strictly enforcing our own rules.It’s essential that schools report all infractions — from the most minor to the most serious. We, as a system, cannot afford to tolerate schools’ failure to report incidents. We need to know which schools are keeping students and educators safe and which ones are not. And, when we have full knowledge of what’s going on in our schools, we can better target resources and support our schools as we work, together, to make our schools even safer. Keep in mind that some of our highest performing schools are the quickest to report violent and unsafe incidents and to suspend students. This does not count against them. All schools should follow these schools’ lead and report all incidents, no matter how minor, to the appropriate authorities. We want schools to stop violence, disorder, and disrespect in its tracks before it gets in the way of other core school functions.

The mayor, the police commissioner, and I believe that by focusing on minor infractions, we can help to prevent more serious incidents and cultivate an environment that supports teaching and learning. This same view of minor infractions helped New York City’s streets become the safest big city streets in the country. Now, our school hallways and classrooms are becoming similarly safe.

With your help, we have successfully worked to reduce crime, especially violent crime, in our schools. The Mayor’s office will release the results of the last school year in the next few weeks, and I am confident that we will continue reducing the kinds of problems at our schools that can detract from learning.

Our schools are still not 100% safe. I still hear terrible stories about fighting, about bullying, about injuries, about weapons. But on the whole, our 1,400 schools and 1.1 million students have become significantly safer as a result of the hard work and vigilance of everyone in our community.

I attribute our progress to our continued collaboration with the NYPD and our ongoing effort to enforce the Discipline Code. Last year, in addition to helping Impact Schools with greater resources, the City started sending “mobile scanning” teams to schools. This program adds an element of surprise that helps us ensure the safety of our students and our schools. These teams helped us confiscate 46 weapons and other dangerous instruments during the spring and during summer school. We must work together to reduce this number so that fewer weapons are coming near our school buildings.

If you have any questions, I encourage you to reach out to your regional safety administrator, or, if you are an Empowerment School principal, to your network team leader. If you have additional questions, please call our central safety office at 212-374-4368 or email me.

I look forward to working with you this year to make our schools even safer.

Sincerely,

Joel I. Klein, Chancellor

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