Parent Opinion: Mayor de Blasio Needs to Give New Yorkers Real Facts About Violence in Our Schools

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This week, I was horrified to learn that Mayor de Blasio has been painting a false picture of how safe our schools really are. The de Blasio administration claims that crime is down, but New York State data highlighted in a new Families for Excellent Schools report, Safety Last: New York City’s Public Schools Are More Dangerous Than Ever, shows that 2015 was actually the most violent year in the city’s public schools in at least a decade.

As a parent whose child has suffered from the violence that pervades New York City’s district schools, this hits close to home. Last year, I got a call from officials at my son’s school, P.S. 140 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, telling me that he had been the victim of a violent incident.

While waiting for classes to start, my son, a third-grader, was standing around a group of eighth grade boys. He told the older boys he thought their conversation was boring, and things escalated rapidly from there. One eighth-grader charged my son and aggressively pushed him up against a wall. His friends joined in, yelling profanities and homophobic slurs. At one point, the older boys attempted to humiliate him by shoving his face into their crotches.

When I received the call from P.S. 140 telling me that my son had been terrorized, I was scared and heartbroken. When I found the bullies who harassed my son were not disciplined by P.S. 140, I was outraged. The bullies remained in school for the rest of the day, and their parents were never notified of the incident.

That afternoon, I pulled my son out of school and took him home. Because P.S. 140 was unwilling to take basic steps to protect him, I had to take matters into my own hands. I’ve petitioned a judge for an order of protection, and will do whatever else it takes to keep him safe. I just wish I could say the same of his school.  

My son’s story is far too common. During the 2014-2015 school year, there were over 15,000 violent incidents at New York City’s public schools, but the de Blasio administration reported less than 3,000 crimes. The city is telling parents that violence in our schools is down 29 percent — but violent incidents actually went up 23 percent over the last year. These numbers just don’t add up.

The de Blasio administration may think they can sweep thousands of violent incidents under the rug, but concerned parents, educators, and advocates won’t let this deception stand. To us, these incidents aren’t numbers on a spreadsheet. They represent our children being tormented by bullies, threatened with a gun in the classroom or a switchblade on the bus, or harassed by gang members. They represent a young boy being insulted and assaulted by a student five years older than him, and then ignored when he asks his school for protection. These incidents are real, and they deserve real action from the de Blasio administration.

I can’t help but wonder what might have happened if the city had different priorities. If the de Blasio administration hadn’t stripped school leaders of their ability to discipline students with out-of-school suspensions, maybe my son’s attackers would’ve been kept away from him. It’s hard to know for sure, but one thing is clear: Mayor de Blasio has prioritized reducing suspensions at all costs, and students like my son are paying the price.

The de Blasio administration needs to provide an explanation for why they have not given the full picture on school safety, and they need to adjust their policies to ensure every public school student feels safe at school. Until these steps are taken, New York City’s parents — especially those whose children have been victims of violence — are intent on holding the administration accountable.

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