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q&a on the issues

School safety

Answers to the most commonly asked questions
New York Teacher

School safety is a prerequisite for teaching and learning. The mission of the UFT’s Safety and Health Department is to protect all UFT members from the safety threats that can confront them and their students in schools. The union provides information about safety regulations and rules, advocates on behalf of members to address unsafe conditions and deal with unresponsive administrators, and works with the Department of Education and the New York Police Department to enforce school safety standards. Here are answers to some of the most common questions that school-based UFT members ask.

Is there a citywide policy on cell phones in schools?

Cell phones — as well as computing devices and portable music and entertainment systems — are permitted in schools, according to Chancellor’s Regulation A-413. However, each school can create and enforce its own policy regarding use of these items on school property.

What safety protocols does my school have to follow?

All schools, by state law, must have a comprehensive safety plan. Your school’s plan should include such things as the chain of command, where school safety agents are posted, visitor control procedures and provisions for security before school, while classes are in session and during after-school programs. The UFT is ready to assist any chapter that needs help creating a better safety plan or addressing a particular safety problem.

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 new contract provides a new process to resolve safety issues at the school level. Chapter leaders should notify the UFT about the violation of a safety standard at their school by filing an online operational issues report the day after they attempt to resolve the issue with their principal. The principal will have 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.

What is the proper way to de-escalate a student in emotional distress?

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

Where can I get training on de-escalating a student in emotional distress?

You can ask your School Safety Committee to cover this topic during the time that your principal must set aside at least twice a year for staff training on school safety, climate and culture according to the new DOE-UFT contract. For official training that results in certification, you can take the four-day Therapeutic Crisis Intervention for Schools (TCIS), created by Cornell University designed to teach staff how to help at-risk children learn constructive ways to handle crises. That training covers preventing a crisis from occurring, de-escalating a student in emotional distress, effectively and safely managing an acute crisis and improving student coping strategies when faced with stressful situations. The UFT offers TCIS training in its Brooklyn and Manhattan offices, and the DOE provides the same training out of its Borough Field Support Centers in all boroughs. If you are interested in pursuing this intensive training, please contact the Victim Program Support staffer in your UFT borough office.

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. There are a number of other steps to take when removing a student. Please reach out to the Victim Support Program staffer in your UFT borough office for assistance.

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.

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, a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) 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 IEP. However, these children are held 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, 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 (OORS) at your school. Also file a Comprehensive Injury Report and a UFT incident report. If the injury results in an absence from work, file for an Injury in the Line of Duty (LODI) 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?

All safety incidents should be reported to the UFT by filling out the union’s online 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 and not shared with your school’s administration.