A pro-charter school group took to City Hall last week to protest the alleged uptick of weapons brought into New York City’s public schools.
Members of Families for Excellent Schools quoted statistics from the New York City Police Department that said the number of guns and knives found at public schools have gone up 30 percent and stun gun possession has risen more than 1,000 percent.
Two highly publicized incidents have brought the discussion of weapons in school back to the forefront. Last Thursday a 15-year-old at York Early College Academy in Jamaica, Queens was found with a .38-caliber revolver in a backpack. Two days before that incident took place, an 11-year-old’s possession of a loaded gun inside PS 40 in South Jamaica, Queens resulted in the arrest of the student’s grandfather, 56-year-old Kenneth Miley. Neither school has metal detectors.
“In every single category, weapons in our schools are rising,” declared Joe Herrera of Families for Excellent Schools. “And yet according to Mayor de Blasio, our schools are safer than ever.”
According to a spokesperson for City Hall, the stats are being selected and manipulated to get a rise out of parents and New York City residents in general.
“FES is cherry-picking from a misleading data set in order to paint a dishonest picture of our public schools,” said spokesman Austin Finan. “The fact is NYPD statistics prove that our schools are safe, with the foremost data showing a 13 percent decrease in overall school crime since 2013.”
According to stats from the NYPD Division of Safety, total weapons seized in NYC public schools in 2013-14 school and the 2014-15 school year are 1,347 and 1,678, respectively.
After the rally, the AmNews talked one-on-one with Herrera and discussed his motivation for the news conference.
“It undermines his job as mayor,” said Herrera when asked why New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t mentioned this issue. “When you hold mayoral control over the city’s educational system, you’re held accountable. Of course you’re gonna want to make stats look better than they are and to make it look like you’re dong the job that you’re supposed to be doing. What he’s saying and what we’re hearing are two different things.”
It’s not the first time that FES has verbally hammered de Blasio publicly. Last month, the group sponsored a television ad referencing a report they released that said 2015 was the most violent year for New York City’s public schools in a decade. For the report, FES tallied New York State Education Department data on their own.
Omar Quintero is a parent whose daughter attends a middle school in West Harlem. His daughter had an encounter that scared him and he felt it demonstrated the conditions of the public schools at the moment.
“Recently, there was an incident where a kid tried to stab her with some scissors,” said Quintero. “He was taken out of school, but came back the next day. We didn’t know about it until my daughter came home and told us. We ain’t heard nothing from the principal or the teachers. Nothing. We didn’t have a meeting with his parents. Nothing. They just brushed it under the table.”