The decision comes after 300 school safety agents were issued the vests during a pilot program put in place following an increase in youth violence.
NEW YORK CITY — The nearly 4,000 unarmed school safety agents (SSAs) working in New York City public schools will start wearing bullet-resistant vests.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) said all employees assigned to the NYPD School Safety Division will be issued “a durable and lightweight ballistic resistant vest” funded by the NYC Department of Education, reports The New York Daily News. The agents will have to wear the vests both inside schools and outside schools during student arrivals and dismissals.
The decision comes after 300 school safety agents were issued the vests during a pilot program, which an NYPD spokesperson said was “very successful and aided in the safety of our school safety agents.”
The pilot program was implemented following an increase in youth violence.
“This is something we’ve asked for many years after weapons collections increased,” said Greg Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, the agents’ union. “(The NYPD) is measuring our agents for the vests as we speak.”
Floyd said close to 7,000 weapons were recovered by SSAs during the last school year and the confiscation of firearms reached double-digits. According to police data, 15 firearms were recovered in city public schools. The year prior, 21 firearms were recovered.
NYPD officials said 10% of the city’s 620 shooting victims this year are under the age of 18, and 14% of those arrested for shootings were under 18 as well. Many were shot near city schools, leading NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey to assign local precinct officers to neighborhood schools at dismissal for the remainder of the school year.
Last October, a 14-year-old was struck by a bullet outside Tottenville High School in Huguenot, according to SI Live. An SSA had to apply a tourniquet to the victim’s ankle. Last December, a girl was shot and wounded outside Williamsburgh Charter High School. In February, two teens and a security guard were hit by gunfire outside the same school following a large fight during dismissal. Also in February in Williamsburg, two other students were shot and wounded outside a high school.
There have been continuous debates regarding SSAs in NYC schools. Following the murder of George Floyd, in June 2020, there were calls to civil rights and education groups to remove all police from NYC schools. Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to remove the agents but said he would consider supplementary “grassroots” alternatives.
A little over a year later, NYC parents and leaders called for more SSAs in NYC schools, citing increased violence. Floyd said the increased violence was compounded by a dramatic drop in SSAs due to a combination of “defund the police” cuts and the vaccine mandate for all the city’s public school employees. Approximately 1,200 agents who retired weren’t replaced and 600 were placed on leave for refusing the vaccine. From Feb. 2020 to Feb. 2023, SSAs dropped from around 5,000 to around 3,700.
Currently, around 3,900 agents work in NYC’s 1,851 public schools.
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