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Pushback on $43 Million Plan to Lock the Doors of NYC Public Schools

VALENTINA ZARINS MARTINEZ, HOST BYLINE: The City has approved a 43 million dollar plan to lock the doors of NYC Public Schools. The plan comes after parents voiced concerns about the increase in violence around school buildings. Specifically after two shootings last week in Williamsburg. It’s a move that represents one of the biggest school security changes in New York City for years. The decision was made during a heated vote by the city’s Panel for Educational Policy. The panel is the governing body of the New York City Department of Education. It’s made up of parents, volunteers and government officials. Thomas Sheppard, is a parent member on the panel. He does not agree with the new plan. He says it hasn’t been thought through and he’s worried about the costs running too high.

THOMAS SHEPPARD: Well, that's the problem r

ight now. That we don't have a full plan for what it looks like in schools. That was the actual pushback. You know, I think everybody would agree that we do have a, or a violence issue that we need to deal with, right? You know, the truth is that parents are genuinely concerned, and in many cases, fearful of, you know, what going to school is like for the children, and there needs to be some well thought out, and well executed plan to deal with that. The problem right now, is we don't have that.

VALENTINA ZARINS MARTINEZ: What would this plan actually look like in schools?

THOMAS SHEPPARD: What we have are is this contract that Now, that basically just puts these intercom style door locks on all of our schools, with no real interaction with the public about what it looks like the impact on schools. You know, logistically how it's going to work, which doors they're going to cover, when are they going to be activated and deactivated?


to hear a little bit more about your position towards this.

THOMAS SHEPPARD: The issues of violence that we're looking at are not happening inside of our school buildings inside of our school buildings are safe places. Right, and they historically have been. So my question is, Will locking the doors of the school buildings, in fact, create situations where if something happens outside of a school, then our children won't be trapped outside of a school, unable to get in because the doors are locked?

VALENTINA ZARINS MARTINEZ: Something that we'll be interested in kind of having a more clear and concise answer on would be the idea that the panel was divided. And why was it so divided?

THOMAS SHEPPARD: And out of those 23 members, 13 of them are appointed by the mayor. Right. And one each by the borough presidents for five, and one each by the education councils within each borough for five. So

what you saw play out last night was what plays out almost every month, right? So the mayor's appointees that make up a supermajority of the school board, in fact, does what it wants, right. And you can have pushback from the community, from the parent representatives on the board, from the borough presidents representatives on the board. And none of it matters. And if the 13 members that are appointed by the mayor, just vote to approve it.

VALENTINA ZARINS MARTINEZ: As a parent, you know, what it is to have children kind of going through this situation? And how do you think this would impact their experiences at school having a kind of more fortified spaces?

THOMAS SHEPPARD: So, you know, having, you know, restricted access and fortifying our schools, I've always said that our schools are not forts, our schools or schools, and that comes from me being a veteran of the US military. I understand fully what the difference between a fortification and a school is. And our schools are not forts they are designed are supposed to be welcoming and opening spaces that provide safe environments and welcoming environments and loving and caring environments and I wonder how much of that goes away when we become almost obsessed, right

, with fortifying them.

VALENTINA ZARINS MARTINEZ: If this isn't the solution, what do you suggest can be done about this?

THOMAS SHEPPARD: Again, once again, not one size fits all solutions, right? Like these things appear different in different places. So in order for us to not have to worry about safety anymore, we have to really understand our communities, we have to understand our neighborhoods, we have to understand the environments in which people live. And then we have to address those issues as they exist in our communities.

VALENTINA ZARINS MARTINEZ: 43 million seems like a lot of money. Where is it coming from?

THOMAS SHEPPARD: So if we're gonna pay for the door locks, what's not being paid for? Because we're paying for the door lo

cks now. And it's, again, it's those types of questions that I feel deserved answers before this was all voted on.

VALENTINA ZARINS MARTINEZ: That's Thomas Shepard, a member of the Panel for Educational Policy. Thank you so much for being here.

THOMAS SHEPPARD: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.


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