As fears about local violence and mass shootings leave many parents worried for their children's safety, New York City officials announced Thursday that they are hiring violence interrupters, mentors, and other community members to help keep students safe.
Project Pivot will provide mentoring, career counseling, recreational activities, and violence prevention programming to 138 city schools with high rates of suspensions, chronic absenteeism, and other factors that put students at risk of violence. The initiative is expected to cost $9 million.
“We cannot be afraid to do the things that work,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a press conference Thursday morning. “We can’t be afraid because it doesn’t fit into the traditional pathway of education.”
City officials announced this spring that weapons seizures surged last school year, with more than 5,500 knives, box cutters and other violent instruments taken from students as of late May. Several parents told Gothamist at the time that they wanted the Department of Education to take more steps to ensure their children would be safe during their commutes to and from school, as well as inside their school buildings. Violence interruption groups will help to establish safe passageways for kids to travel to and from school as part of Project Pivot, according to the DOE.
Adams said the “traditional pathway” in city schools has failed the disproportionate number of Black and brown students who never reach proficiency, as well as the large percentage of people on Rikers Island who have dyslexia.
Project Pivot, he said, will allow the school system to empower “every aspect of our children.”
The city has recruited more than 100 local and national organizations, including Black Girls Rock, Elite Learners, and Street Corner Resources, to work in 51 schools in the Bronx, 37 schools in Brooklyn, 28 schools in Manhattan, 13 schools in Queens, and nine schools on Staten Island.
Some of the groups are part of the city’s Crisis Management System, which sends trusted community members into violent hotspots to prevent shootings. Those organizations, known as violence interrupters, will use similar methods to support students who might get involved in violence.
Other organizations will take a more holistic approach. Some will offer activities like web design and podcasting, while others will work to strengthen relationships between kids and their fathers.
“We talk often about safety, and many of these organizations are going to provide a deeper level of safety in our schools,” said Schools Chancellor David Banks.
Project Pivot is the latest in a series of initiatives the mayor has launched since campaigning on a platform of public safety. Adams, a former police captain, has worked closely with law enforcement on many of those plans, including to clear homeless people from the subways, crack down on illegal dirt bikes, and get thousands of guns off the streets. Adams and Banks have also repeatedly expressed support for school safety agents, even amid growing calls to remove police from schools.
But at Thursday’s press conference, Adams emphasized the role of community groups to promote safety in city schools.
“Safety is not a police job, it’s a village job,” he said.
Education officials said in a press release that all Project Pivot programs will be based on “the most current research and efficacy data” but did not immediately provide details on how they will assess organizations’ effectiveness.