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Q&A on the Issues

School safety

New York Teacher
school safety
Two boys playing in class

School safety is a prerequisite for teaching and learning. The UFT’s Safety and Health Department is dedicated to protecting all UFT members from safety threats that can confront them in schools. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about school safety that UFT members ask.

What safety protocols does my school have to follow?

All schools, by state law, must have a comprehensive school safety plan. Your school’s plan should include the chain of command, the location of school safety agents and procedures for visitor control. The plan must have provisions for security before school, while classes are in session and during after-school programs.

How can I find out what’s in my school’s safety plan?

You can request a copy of the staff version of the school safety plan from your principal. The plan should be discussed at your school’s safety committee meeting in September. The safety committee must designate a specific time for staff training on safety issues, and committee meeting minutes must be shared with all staff.

What do I do if I believe my principal is not following the rules and regulations on school safety?

The DOE-UFT contract provides a process for resolving safety issues at the school level. Chapter leaders should notify the union about the violation of a safety standard at their school by filing an online operational issues report the day after they bring the issue to their principal’s attention. The principal has five days to rectify the issue before it is escalated to the borough-based Safety Committee. If it is not resolved at the borough level, the issue will go to the central committee and finally to the UFT president and the schools chancellor or their designees.

How does the DOE’s new locked-door policy work? Will all schools have locked doors eventually?

Beginning in September 2023, the DOE started equipping elementary schools and pre-K sites with door-locking video security systems to keep anybody with ill intentions from accessing school buildings. At schools where the new system is in place, front doors of the building remain locked during school hours and visitors must identify themselves — via a video camera — to a school safety agent before they can enter the building.

The system will be installed at more elementary schools in the spring of 2024. The DOE aims to equip all school buildings with this system over the next 18 months.

What is the proper way to deescalate a student in emotional distress?

Every school is required to have a crisis deescalation plan and a crisis deescalation team to assist staff. All school staff, as required by Chancellor’s Regulation A-411, must receive training in their school’s deescalation procedures for handling a child in crisis and calling 911.

Where can I get training on deescalating a student in emotional distress?

The UFT offers violence-prevention workshops for school staff to learn techniques and practical approaches to avoid and defuse violent situations in school. These workshops are required for teachers seeking initial or permanent certification. You can also ask your school safety committee to cover this topic during the time that your principal sets aside at least twice a year for training on school safety, climate and culture.

What is the student removal process?

A teacher has the authority to remove a disruptive student from the classroom, according to Chancellor’s Regulation A-443. You must inform the administration of the removal and complete and submit a student removal form no later than the end of the school day.

The school must provide an alternative instructional area where the student who was removed receives appropriate educational and intervention services. A swap of classrooms or putting the student in the school counselor’s office or the general office is not an appropriate alternative instructional area. If this protocol is not being followed in your school, please reach out to the Victim Support Program staffer in your UFT borough office for assistance.

Can I get a student I deem disruptive permanently removed from my class?

No, the discipline code permits students to return to a classroom after a suspension or removal is completed. A student may be removed from the class for up to four days. A principal’s suspension can last for up to five days.

Can students with disabilities be disciplined?

Yes, but a manifestation determination review must be conducted in certain circumstances to ensure that a student with disabilities is not being disciplined for behavior that has a direct and substantial relationship to the student’s disability and/or that is a direct result of a school’s failure to implement the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). However, students with disabilities are subject to the same student discipline code as students without disabilities.

What do I do if an irate or unruly parent or other adult comes into my classroom?

Adults who don’t work in the school should not get past visitor control in these situations. However, if an irate parent comes into your classroom unannounced, you can contact the main office, an administrator, a safety agent or a co-worker for assistance.

If you are concerned about your safety, don’t arrange to meet with an angry parent alone — ask an administrator to join you.

What should I do if I am injured by a student or school visitor?

First, you should notify your school’s administration and make sure you receive medical treatment. You’ll need to file a report through the DOE’s Online Occurrence Reporting System at your school. Also you’ll need to file a comprehensive injury report and a UFT incident report. If the injury results in your absence from work, file for an injury in the line of duty leave if you are a pedagogue or for Workers’ Compensation if you are not a pedagogue.

What types of incidents should I report to the UFT?

You should report all safety incidents to the union by filling out its Safety Compliant form. The UFT uses these reports to support members by advising them of their rights and explaining reporting procedures. All UFT incident reports are confidential; they will not be shared with your school’s administration.

Related Topics: School Safety