October 8, 2017

Mayor, NYPD: Case-by-Case Basis For Using School Metal Detectors

Major Rise in Weapons Found

CHICKEN OR EGG?: Dermot Shea, Chief of Crime Control Strategies at the Police Department, said it was difficult to determine why more weapons were being found in city schools. ‘Are we better at catching the weapons or are they bringing more in?’ he asked. Photo: The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang

Mayor de Blasio and top Police Department officials defended limitations on the use of metal detectors in schools at a press conference Oct. 3, a day after reports surfaced that a second knife was found by a Custodian in the same classroom where two students were stabbed, one fatally, at a Bronx high school.

The Custodian found the weapon in the rear of that room Sept. 28, a day after Abel Cedeno, 18, allegedly stabbed Matthew McCree, 15, and Ariane Laboy, 16, in the chest with a three-inch switchblade during a history class at Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation. Mr. McCree died from his injuries; the other teen is recovering from his wounds.

NYPD: No Connection

According to the Police Department, the second knife belonged to another student who was in the classroom at the time of the stabbings, but was unrelated to the incident.

“We spoke to the person who had the knife,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. “The kid had nothing to do with the stabbing at all. Neither did the knife.”

The teen had the knife in his backpack but it fell out when he escaped the classroom during the panic caus­ed by the stabbings.

“He knocked it over, and several items in the backpack fell out,” Chief Boyce said.

The discovery of a second weapon sounded an alarm for the president of the union that represents School Safety Agents, Gregory Floyd. “It means more children are bringing in weapons to protect themselves from other kids who have weapons,” the Teamsters Local 237 head said.

Nearly 40% Increase

From July 1 to Oct. 1, 328 weapons were recovered in city schools, according to the NYPD. During that same timeframe last year, just 222 weapons were found.

Just six percent of city schools have metal detectors, yet 57 percent of weapons found last year were recovered in schools that don’t scan students. Urban Academy did not have metal detectors at the time of the attack; the equipment has since been put in place.

At a press conference on crime, Chief Brian Conroy, who is Commanding Officer of the School Safety Division, said that weapons were found in schools without the equipment “through cooperative working relationships with everybody in the school community.”

Chief of Crime Control Strategies Dermot Shea added that the “overall crime picture,” including robberies and arrests of school-age teens, is down.

“It’s difficult to say, ‘Are we better at catching the weap­ons or are they bringing more in?’” Mr. Shea said.

Defers to NYPD

When asked about expanding the use of metal detectors, Mr. de Blasio stood by his administration’s policy allowing the NYPD to determine where they were needed.

“We continue to believe that School Safety and NYPD is the best arbiter,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Any decision on metal detectors is made with the ultimate sign off of the NYPD—whether to add them or remove them.”

Mr. Conroy added that scanners can be deployed at schools on a temporary basis.

Mr. Floyd has called for metal detectors to be put in every high school.

“There’s been a lot of pushback by the de Blasio administration on our suggestion of three years to put metal detectors in every high school. What we haven’t heard is an affirmative plan that will keep weapons from coming into schools. And a second weapon being found [at Urban Academy] is even more reason to have this conversation,” Mr. Floyd said.

‘Not Necessarily Safer’

Eric Nadelstern, professor of educational leadership at Columbia University’s Teach­ers College and a former Deputy Chancellor under the Bloomberg administration, said that metal detectors “give the illusion of safety.”

‘Not Necessarily Safer’

“It’s hard to argue against metal detectors after a student has been hurt, but they don’t necessarily create a safer environment,” he said.

Mr. Nadelstern added that when two students were killed at Brooklyn’s Thonmas Jefferson High School in 1992, there were more than 50 cops present because then-Mayor David Dinkins was scheduled to visit the building later that morning.

“What’s required is a comprehensive approach to address violence. The city needs anti-violence and anti-bullying campaigns, and adults who listen to students,” he said.