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School safety

A new statewide law, the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Law will take effect. Though it is credited with being the most aggressive legislation of its kind in the country, violence in New York schools remains an issue. In recent months, the Governor's Task Force on School Violence has examined the issue of teacher and student safety in depth. Former teacher and Lt. Governor Mary Donohue concluded, "It's not the schools' fault," during a forum at Southside Elementary School on implementing the new law designed to make schools "safe havens for learning."

Much of the law focuses on empowering teachers and schools to combat violence. Districts must develop plans and disciplinary actions for dealing with threats and incidents of violence. Teachers will now have the ability to remove disruptive students, and principals and superintendents have the right to suspend students for up to five days. (Suspension was formerly the domain of the Board of Education, which had to allow administrators the power.) All students will now receive instruction on civility, citizenship and character. And a new statewide system to report acts of violence will be put in place.

There are some more controversial aspects, however. The law will also require all new school employees to be fingerprinted and undergo a police records check, and cost the employee $74. Moreover, the courts will be required to report students' convictions.

Jessica Sounds Off:

Former Commissioner Howard Safir is still costing the city money. Though he stepped down as Commissioner three months ago, the city continues to foot the bill for his security detail. Though the NYPD would not reveal how many officers were assigned to Mr. Safir, the NY Post reported the number to be as high as 13. Safir now works for a corporate investigations firm, ChoicePoint Inc. The Mayor, Commissioner Bernard Kerik and former NYPD commissioner Robert Kelly asserted that such security was standard practice. Former Commissioner Bratton, credited with making New York the safest large city in the nation, commented that he never felt the need for additional security.

Jessica Green is a student of public policy at Columbia University's Graduate School of International and Public Affairs.

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