The NYCLU, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, and Make the Road New York have released a report arguing that schools can create a safer environment without metal detectors and harsh discipline. The study, called "Safety with Dignity: Alternatives to Over-Policing Schools," is based on a year-long examination of six NYC schools with "at-risk" student populations that do not use metal detectors. According to the report, these schools have improved attendance, better student retention and graduation rates, and "dramatically fewer" criminal and non-criminal incidents and school suspensions than schools equipped with permanent metal detectors.
The Department of Education says that the study's claim to better graduation rates is false, and the NYPD counters that metal detectors have helped schools confiscate 22 guns last year and six guns so far this year. But NYCLU director Donna Lieberman says, "The schools profiled in this report prove that there are effective, real-world alternatives to making schools feel like jails. They show that treating students with dignity and respect is the best approach to producing good, safe schools." In a statement, Lieberman adds:
Students, some as young as five, that's kindergarten, were handcuffed or assaulted or taken to jail for infractions like cursing, talking back, writing on the desk, refusing to show ID, or turn over cell phones. And we've seen the emergence of a terrible phenomenon known as the school-to-prison pipeline, where instead of graduation and employment or college, large numbers of children, overwhelming low-income, Black and Latino children, are groomed for jail.
The NYCLU is recommending that the Department of Education discontinue metal detectors and emphasize alternative strategies to intervene with troubled students. According to NY1, the six schools in the study—Progress High School for Professional Careers (Brooklyn), Urban Assembly for Careers in Sports (Bronx), Humanities Preparatory Academy (Manhattan), Urban Academy and Vanguard High School (Manhattan), and Lehman High School (Bronx)—use student safety officers "who employ conflict resolution techniques, such as fairness counsels, where both students and teachers discuss infractions and how to deal with them."
The study also highlights an interesting stat: Since 1998, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani transferred school security responsibilities to the NYPD, the number of police personnel in the schools soared by 62 percent, from 3,200 to 5,200. The police force in New York City schools is now the fifth largest police force in the country—there are more police in New York City schools than there are on the streets of cities such as Baltimore, Las Vegas, Boston and Washington D.C. Even schools like the elite Stuyvesant High School have been using metal detectors—not to detect weapons but to disarm cheaters who might use their mobile devices during a test.