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How New York got safer schools

School violence graphic May 22, 1998
Web posted at: 10:38 a.m. EDT (1438 GMT)

From Correspondent Peg Tyre

NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York, like many other school districts around the nation, has grappled with finding ways to make its schools safer. There have been signs it has made progress in recent years.

After a 1992 shooting in a Brooklyn high school left two students dead, New York's board of education ordered the installation of metal detectors in the city's schools.

Police were also brought in to patrol 130 of the toughest schools. Teachers got special training, and students were taught conflict resolution.

School violence special

New York City also made it mandatory that anyone bringing a gun, knife or other weapon to school be expelled. But there is a big loophole in the mandate: you have to be 17 or older before you can be expelled.

School shooting
A 1992 Brooklyn high school shooting left two people dead   

The results of New York's efforts are difficult to measure.

According to experts, a drop in school violence is inseparable from a drop in the overall crime rate in New York City.

Still, fewer guns are showing up in the city's schools.

Two years ago, 129 guns were confiscated from students. Last year, the number of confiscated guns was down to 90. Assaults on teachers are down 24 per cent.

Some say that school safety in New York hinges on tough rules and swift penalties.

Police investigate a crime at a school   

"Make a fuss over minor infractions and you'll avoid the larger, more serious ones," says Seymour Fliegel of the Center for Educational Innovation. "Cause kids want to know the parameters and they want limits."

Even with New York's modest successes, experts are reluctant to say school safety issues are under control.

"We haven't had an incident like (the school shooting in Oregon) in a good number of years," says Jim Baumann, safety director for the United Federation of Teachers. "I think one of the reasons is that.. when we did have them, there was a response, internally from our system, to put programs in place to try to deal with these issues."

He adds, "I don't think there are ever going to be any guarantees that will assure this never happens in a school."


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