The NYPD has enacted a new procedure for the 2022-2023 school year that places School Safety Agents on their own frequency channel that is directly linked to 911. Previously, School Safety Agents at schools all over New York City shared a radio frequency with school staffers, educators, and administrators at the schools they were stationed at.
Under the new protocols, School Safety Agents have been placed on a frequency channel dedicated to the school districts with access to law enforcement, cutting down on the number of people with access to the channel and preventing confusion.
Due to the new frequency protocol, School Safety Agents have been able to report gunshots outside of schools in the past week resulting in an immediate response from the police department. On Wednesday, September 7th, School Safety Agents called in shots fired in the fatal shooting of Unique Smith, 14, across the street from Westinghouse High School. On Friday, September 9th, School Safety Agents reported gunshots fired after dismissal outside of Lincoln High School. On Monday, September 12th, School Safety Agents reported shots fired outside of South Shore High School in the morning before the school day began. In all three instances, the School Safety Agents, after reporting the incidents, were the first on the scene to provide aid and assistance before the police arrived.
However, this new development has been criticized by principals. They claim the new system leaves them out of the loop, making it difficult to reach School Safety Agents in case of an emergency.
“I’m envisioning a situation in which we do have a real intruder,” said one principal, who chose to remain anonymous. “The only way I can talk to all of them [School Safety Agents] is calling all of them on their cells, waiting for that all to be connected, and hoping they pick up?”
Craig DiFolco, a spokesman for the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, said, “While we understand the intention is to improve citywide communications, many principals have shared that the new policy is highly problematic and will prevent clear and timely communication on school-specific matters.”
“It is critical that school personnel and safety agents communicate and coordinate quickly during situations that pose danger to students and staff, and the policy should be adjusted to ensure that radio communication within school buildings is as efficient and effective as possible,” DiFolco said.
However, these notions were denied by some School Safety Agents. Quiann Simpkins, a parent and a well-experienced School Safety Agent who works in South Brooklyn, supports the new communication system being used between the NYPD and the School Safety Agents. In an interview with LittleAfrica News, she said the new mode of communication was effective as it allows the School Safety Agents to directly get in touch with 911 and get the necessary help whether it is the NYPD, the fire department, or the ambulance. Simpkins expressed that having educators and administrators on the same frequency channel as the School Safety Agents was detrimental, often causing delays and confusion.
Simpkins, a founding member of the NYC School Safety Coalition, also noted that the new system was convenient due to the fact that it allows schools in the same area to be notified if there is trouble outside as they will hear about it over the radio. This allows schools to shelter in and be protected when there is danger. Simpkins indicated that the issues raised by the complainants are invalid. “No, it’s not a valid complaint. Because what they are being excluded from is something that they are not a part of. They are not a member of the NYPD; they don’t utilize NYPD protocols and procedures. They don’t even understand NYPD protocols and procedure,” Simpkins said.
Simpkins made the point that principals and educators should not feel as though they are losing control. She highlighted that all parties serving a role at schools should know their role, and be able to play it to the best of their abilities. “It’s a collective collaboration between two different agencies to make sure school buildings are safe,” she said.
“With this frequency, agents in the field have the ability to request immediate assistance from patrol officers during an emergency,” an NYPD spokesperson said. A seasoned safety agent said: “It’s actually better for [school administrators], better for us, better for the whole entire building safety… because now the response is immediate.”