Outcome of school violence crackdown hard to detect.

Author:Zelon, Helon
Position::FIRST FOCUS
 
FREE EXCERPT

Early in the Bloomberg administration, the mayor and then-Chancellor Joel Klein identified a list of high-crime schools they called Impact Schools. In partnership with Ray Kelly of the NYPD, the Department of Education targeted the schools' improvement by assigning additional school safety officers and NYPD police officers to assert and maintain order.

"We are cracking down on the schools with the worst safety records" the mayor said in early January 2004. "They will be getting more police officers.... Disruptive students will not be tolerated. We have a responsibility to provide an environment free from violence and fear so children can learn. We simply won't allow a few people to destroy the educational opportunities of others."

In 2004, the formal NYPD presence in city schools was relatively recent--a 1998 memorandum of understanding between Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the NYPD that permitted police in the public schools was quietly renewed by Bloomberg in 2003.

Now, with police in the schools for more than a decade, it seems timely to ask what happened to the Impact Schools. Seven years after the Impact Schools initiative, did the program make schools safer--did it permit more students to learn well, to graduate on time, to succeed in work or college after high school?

Answering those questions proves onerous--because most of the Impact Schools have been shuttered by the DOE, their school buildings now occupied by numerous small-school organizations. Some Impact Schools got safer and were removed from the list, even as new schools were added. As public records and privacy mandates rightly don't permit tracking the progress (or failure) of individual students, determining whether Impact School students have graduated from their phasing-out schools before they closed, transferred to other schools, or left school entirely is near-impossible.

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The Impact Schools theory was grounded in "broken-windows" policing, common in many of the city's poorest districts, like the South Bronx, Bed-Stuy, East New York and Brownsville. The Giuliani-era urban-crime strategy mandates resolving small issues before they become inflamed. Adding extra officers to Impact Schools meant more rigorous screening at building entries...

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