Press Release from Boston S.O.S. (Safety of Our Schools) 8/8/23
We are now in a city council election cycle and the #1 issue in the city of Boston should be the school safety crisis that we are facing.
Public education is 40 % of the city’s budget, 33% for Boston Public Schools, greater than any other category. Fiscal Year 2024 | Boston.gov. This reality alone means that we need to elect a city council that will take seriously the responsibility of the city of Boston to provide safe schools. We don’t need more rhetoric about being in favor of safe schools but we need action that will address our school safety crisis.
The BPS budget comes to a whopping $1.4 Billion. BPS officials release 2024 budget - The Bay State Banner. While the BPS budget goes up the enrollment goes down. “The district has seen enrollment drop from 54,312 students in 2015 to 46,169 in 2022.” (Bay State Banner, 2/8/23). Yet we continue to have a school safety crisis with weapons going into schools, assaults of students, assaults of teachers, bullying, and students ingesting edibles. Safe schools are the foundation of a good education and yet with this enormous budget we don’t provide the essential safe space for good learning to happen. We don’t need more money for education we need a new vision for education that promises and delivers to make our schools safe spaces.
Parents have continued to say that they are concerned about school safety and overwhelmingly support metal detectors (76%) and school police (75 %). Poll: BPS parents voice concerns about children’s emotional well-being, physical safety — MassINC Polling Group. Let’s be clear about the demographics of BPS. “Boston Public Schools are 15.2% White, 29.3% Black, 9.1% Asian or Asian/Pacific Islander, 42.4% Hispanic/Latino.” Boston Public Schools - U.S. News Education (usnews.com). A largely non-white school system has a majority of the parents supporting metal detectors and school police in schools.
It is time for the candidates running for city council to pay attention to the voices of parents and support the action that they are demanding to keep their children safe. Nine current councilors continue to ignore parents’ voices. City councilors work at city hall protected by metal detectors and then oppose metal detectors in school because of some hypocritical notion that it “will criminalize our youth.” That tired slogan gets pulled out every time a serious effort is proposed to address weapons going into schools and yet these same councilors have nothing to say about metal detectors at Boston City Hall, court houses, TD Garden, Fenway Park, Canobie Lake Park, Logan Airport. Parents gladly take their children to watch Disney on Ice and enter the arena by going through metal detectors. How can youth be only “criminalized” by metal detectors in school? What is really happening is that we are traumatizing our children by not providing the safe schools they deserve.
Renee Callender, Founder and CEO of Conflict Resolution, Inc. says, “The politicians in the city of Boston have been focusing on promoting the concept of not criminalizing our young people, which I totally agree with, but there are young people causing chaos throughout the city without any type of accountability for their behavior. I ask, what exactly is the message the city of Boston wants to send to their youth? Do morals, values and accountability no longer matter?”
Boston school police were removed from the schools in 2021 when the city of Boston decided not to provide the necessary training to align with the state’s police reform legislation. Let’s be clear the legislation did not remove school police from schools but gave municipalities the choice. Unlike other major cities in Massachusetts like Brockton, Boston decided to remove the school police. The school police in Boston were never armed and were separate from the Boston Police School Unit. They built relationships with the students and were able to intervene before a situation escalated often serving as mentors and teachers to students. They were trained and had police authority to address the immediate serious school safety issues that now include weapons and assaults. We have heard for two years that we just need more social workers and yet we are still facing a school safety crisis. When the knives and guns come out BPS is not calling the social workers to respond. As these politicians are running for election Boston Public School students are running for their lives.
We need both a school safety and a comprehensive early intervention strategy to address the underlying issues of our school safety crisis. It is not adequate to say we only need mental health services. We need a both/and approach because school safety is a mental health issue. Weapons in school are a mental health issue.
Rev. David Searles says, “Boston S.O.S. (Safety of Our Schools) has been talking with parents and residents about school safety across the city in places like Central AG Church English Classes in East Boston, Ashmont Station in Dorchester, Nubian Square in Roxbury, and at Almont Park in Mattapan. The responses are consistent with the recent polling data. There is a great concern about school safety and great support for real solutions like metal detectors and school police back in schools. People are frustrated that those in power are not listening to them.”
Two current city councilors who are running for reelection, Ed Flynn and Erin Murphy, have listened to the voices of the Black, Latino, Asian, and White parents and have publicly supported their call for metal detectors, school police and good mental health services. We applaud the courage of their position and will support other candidates who are listening to the parents of the children and youth who attend Boston schools. We call on the voters of Boston to get out and vote to help elect these candidates who are offering real solutions for our school safety crisis.
At Jeremiah Burke High School there was a stabbing inside the school, fortunately the victim survived. The next week metal detectors were set up in the school. That same week a shooting of a student happened outside the building. We have reason to believe that the perpetrator of the shooting would have gone into the school with the gun but the metal detectors at the door prevented him. Imagine if the shooter had opened fire inside the school. Why are metal detectors only put up after an incident with a weapon in a reactive posture? We need a proactive approach and strategy to provide safe schools and deter students from bringing weapons to school
Due to the Boston school safety crisis parents are looking for educational alternatives. Boston spends $31,000 per student in BPS, the highest of any major city in the country. If we gave parents the $31,000 to send their child to the school of their choice would the parents send their child to a BPS school?
The students, parents and taxpayers of Boston deserve better. It’s time to act and vote for those city councilors who are listening to parents and are willing to support the necessary changes to make Boston schools the safe place our children and youth deserve.