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Know Your Rights

School safety

New York Teacher
Negative COVID test result

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s why the UFT demands that the city Department of Education take safety seriously.

COVID-19 protocols

In accordance with CDC guidelines, the city requires vaccination for all staff and visitors who enter school buildings and recommends vaccination for students.

This school year, staff and students receive four at-home rapid tests each month; if they have been exposed to COVID-19, two additional tests will be provided.

Schools provide masks by request and are required to maintain a 30-day supply at all times. Masks remain optional for staff and students, but are required in the following cases:

  • When returning to school (or on a school bus) after the sixth day of testing positive for COVID through Day 10 after the onset of symptoms or the date of a positive test, whichever is earlier;
  • When entering a school nurse’s/medical office or school-based health center;
  • When exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 at school.

Positive cases should be immediately reported to the school and isolation should begin.

The upgraded ventilation protocol continues this school year. Each classroom should have two air purifiers. While deep cleaning is at the discretion of principals, custodians are expected to keep a 30-day supply of disinfectant on hand.

The safety committee

Under Article 10B of the DOE-UFT contract, every school must have a safety committee.

The safety committee, which includes the UFT chapter leader, must meet at least once a month, and the chapter leader must be provided coverage to attend. The committee is responsible for developing a comprehensive safety plan and then updating and signing off on it annually. Within two days of each safety committee meeting, minutes of the meeting should be distributed to all staff.

If there is a safety issue at your school that needs to be addressed, you have the right to bring it to the attention of your chapter leader for discussion at the next safety meeting or for resolution through the operational-issues process for addressing workplace issues.

In addition, safety training should be scheduled and schools should practice soft lockdown, shelter-in, fire and evacuation drills.

School safety plans

The school safety plan includes a detailed blueprint of procedures designed to keep schools safe during normal school operations and in an emergency. It should include such things as the chain of command, where school safety agents are normally posted, visitor screening procedures, how to report an intruder, how to respond if a door alarm goes off, how to cover lunchrooms if staff scheduled to be on duty are absent, and provisions for security before school, while classes are in session and during after-school programs. A principal must provide a copy of the staff version of the safety plan upon request from a staff member.

Enforcing safety issues at your school

When a safety issue is reported via the operational-issues process, chapter leaders should first try to resolve the issue with their principal or supervisor through one-on-one conversations, email notification to the principal or supervisor, or the consultation committee.

The principal has five days to resolve the safety issue; after that, it may be escalated to the borough-based safety committee. If it is not resolved at the borough level, a central committee will review the complaint.

The UFT is ready to assist any chapter that needs help addressing a safety problem. School safety specialists from the union support chapters by speaking at chapter meetings, conducting building safety walks, providing resources such as a safety plan checklist and assistance with resolving violations of the safety standards.

The school safety specialist can also arrange for a UFT safety inspection to help your school identify areas of vulnerability and suggest solutions.

For more information, visit the school safety section of the UFT website.