Massive shortage of school security guards looming in New York City

More than 5,000 school security officers guard the doors and hallways of some 1,600 New York City schools.

Next Tuesday, hundreds of those agents, if not thousands, could be taken off the payroll, as the city’s vaccination mandate goes into effect.

Schools are trying to prepare for the fallout from the city’s immunization mandate, which gives any school employee until the end of the day Monday to submit proof of their first dose.

The education department estimates that some 10,000 teachers have yet to upload proof of vaccination, while the teachers’ union said on Friday the number of unvaccinated teachers was closer to 6,000. Yet nearly 20,000 other school workers have not yet complied, including a large number of school safety officers. The vaccination rate for school security officers could drop as low as 60%, the head of the security officers’ union said. New York Post. The NYPD told Chalkbeat on Monday the number was closer to 72%.

Principals were told this week that schools without metal detectors would likely only have one school security officer reporting to work, said Mark Cannizzaro, union leader representing school administrators, during ‘a joint press conference with the head of the teachers’ union on Friday. Schools with scanners would get a bit more. Security guards will also be required to work 12-hour shifts, managers told Chalkbeat.

“The feedback we get from our principals,” Cannizzaro said, “they weren’t comfortable Tuesday morning that they’ll be able to safely staff their schools.”

The number of security guards in a given school depends on whether it is an elementary, middle or secondary school, as well as the number of students enrolled. Some large high schools with 20 security guards might have to go down to one or two, Cannizzaro said.

He and the president of the United Teachers’ Federation, Michael Mulgrew, called on the city to delay the implementation of the immunization mandate to give schools more time to ensure they could cover staff shortages. Principals received an email from the education department this week – just three working days ahead of possible staff shortages in schools – informing them they would get funding on Monday to help cover the cost of hiring substitute teachers the next day.

But the guidelines were silent on how to cover other roles essential to the operation of a school, such as school security officers, cafeteria workers, or guard engineers. As well as not having enough security guards at the entrances to schools, it could mean that schools would do without hot meals and other problems.

“We ask that staff not be placed on leave until they can be properly staffed,” Cannizzaro said.

De Blasio showed no indication of pressing the pause button, saying the “vast majority” of school staff will be vaccinated by Tuesday.

“The point is, we have it all planned out,” he told WNYC on Friday. “We have a lot of replacements ready.”

Education Ministry officials did not immediately respond to the comments.

School security officers play a variety of roles on campus. They greet and register visitors in school buildings, and in some schools they operate metal detectors. They also react to brawls and even make arrests – a point of contention given racial disparities in arrests and fears such measures will entangle some students in the legal system in the long run. (However, most school arrests are made by regular patrol officers called to schools rather than security guards stationed in buildings.) In many cases, they are called upon to respond to student mental health crises. . They wear NYPD uniforms, but they are unarmed.

A principal, who typically has seven school safety officers, offered emergency scenarios for Tuesday.

“Our backup plan is if there is a need for that [school safety agent] during the day, we (the administrators) will remain at the reception while the [school safety agent] will deal with the brawl / incident, ”said the manager, speaking anonymously for fear of retaliation.

The Police Department took control of the School Safety Division in the late 1990s under the Giuliani administration, and its budget increased significantly under de Blasio, now standing at nearly $ 425 million.

More recently, some advocates have pushed for a drastic reduction in the size of the division, and de Blasio has pledged to transfer control of the division from the NYPD to the Department of Education by next June. But this decision could stall given that his successor, most likely Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, looked like he would block it.

The vaccine’s mandate could inadvertently achieve what some advocates have long sought: funding for this NYPD-overseen school safety force, which itself is said to be one of the largest police forces in the country.

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Correction: The union representing school safety officers initially told the New York Post that the membership vaccination rate was only 40%, but later updated that rate to 60%.

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