Pay attention to data on NYC school safety

The NYC Department of Education has asked the right questions, but officials now have to pay attention to the answers.

In an anonymous survey taken each March, the DOE asks students, parents and teachers about their school’s academics, social environment and safety. Results are published online. A DOE spokeswoman said superintendents review them to determine a school’s needs.

But it seems school officials aren’t doing enough.

Last month, two students were stabbed, one fatally, in a classroom at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx.

Abel Cedeno, 18, is accused of stabbing classmates Matthew McCree, 15, who was killed, and Ariane LaBoy, 16. As a bisexual teen, Cedeno reportedly had endured extensive taunting and bullying. The incident remains under investigation, and there’s still a lot we don’t know.

But there’s also a lot we do know — and that city officials should have known, assuming they analyzed their own school survey results. The data indicated that 92 percent of teachers at that school said students harass or bully other students some or most of the time. Only 19 percent of teachers thought discipline and order were maintained, and just a third thought school safety agents promoted a safe and respectful environment. Eighty-nine percent of students said there were physical fights at the school, 74 percent said bullying and harassment were problems some or most of the time, and 45 percent didn’t feel safe in school.

And then there’s this: Of the more than 1,100 public schools in NYC, Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation had the fourth-highest percentage of students who felt unsafe.

City education officials must learn from this tragedy, and address safety and bullying in schools citywide, with a particular focus on students like Cedeno, who might be targeted. And it’s especially important to take action in schools where teachers and students say there’s trouble. Perhaps by listening to them, school administrators and city officials can make all of our schools safer.


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