All across America, student life has been deeply impacted by the many stressors of the pandemic. We have seen a spike in altercations in schools across the nation. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that New York City’s answer to the violence will be to put more police in schools. Putting more police in our schools will only further criminalize our youth, and it does nothing to get to the root of the problems of community violence. As working class people across the country struggle to pay their rent and to keep afloat, the same crushing impacts the pandemic has had on communities is also profoundly impacting our youth.
Instead of addressing the root cause of harm, De Blasio is calling for more unannounced metal detector scanning at schools, hiring 250 new school police and stationing NYPD officers at dismissal and arrival times. While Chancellor Porter says that these measures will be “temporary,” we know that the NYPDs policing budget is rarely ever decreased. NYC spends $450 million dollars on thousands of police in schools – more than any city in the entire country. Despite having the largest policing budget in schools in the nation, we have still seen the same spike in violence.
The mayoral candidate for the Party for Socialism and Liberation Cathy Rojas says, “I’ve been in the schools every day working with students and families. I see how the violence of poverty, hunger, homelessness, lack of green space and extracurricular activities, food deserts and threats of deportation impact my students. More police are not, and have never been the answer to community-based violence. More policing puts our young people on a track towards incarceration and even death. We need to be looking towards community led solutions to violence, that is the only thing proven to work.”
The issue of increasing violence in schools is serious, and working class people deserve real solutions. That is why the Rojas campaign demands full funding for violence interruption programs and full allocation of resources to end the conditions of poverty that produce violence.
In New York City, we have seen these programs work. Violence interruption programs are programs run by former gang members, and local community members that aim to de-escalate violence in the streets among youth. Independent evaluations conducted by the non-profit organization Cure Violence Approach showed at least a 30% reduction in shootings after the implementation of violence interrupter programs in neighborhoods in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.
In the areas served by Cure Violence Approach, such as East New York, gun injury rates fell by 50%. In the South Bronx, the areas served by CVA experienced a 37% decline in gun injuries and a 63% reduction in shooting victimizations.
Recently, a week of increased violence that led to a fight between 23 students made national news after local Dads stepped up to curb the violence. Parents knew something needed to change, and banned together to form “Dads on Duty” – a group of about 40 dads who take shifts spending time at the school in Shreveport, Louisiana to build a positive learning environment. Their example shows that we have the power to be the solution to our communities problems. Groups like these should be formed and funded in New York City schools. Unemployed parents or parents who would like to be involved should also receive a stipend to help support the continuation of these programs.
If Mayor De Blasio keeps saying that we need more police and larger police budgets in order to keep our children safe from violence, then why are there constant budget cuts to programs that actually work? It is clear that politicians like Bill De Blasio and Eric Adams, who support the same increase in policing in schools, do not have the best interests of working people at heart.
However, the current rise in altercation in our schools are not simply because of “mental health issues,” but are a result of the capitalist system’s refusal to meet even the basic needs of working people during a pandemic. Violence is a consequence of poverty, and poverty is a consequence of the capitalist system’s hyper-exploitation for profit.
The Cathy Rojas for Mayor campaign stands with the Dignity in Schools campaign in calling for Police-Free Schools that will divest from policing and punitive approaches The safest schools in the country don’t have the most police, they have funding and resources.