New York’s Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell Approach to School Safety

By the New York Post

Do the folks running the United Federation of Teachers really care about members’ work conditions? We ask because the UFT’s allies keep making it harder to measure school safety.

Bill de Blasio

We wrote last week about the Manhattan Institute’s new report that flagged rising teacher and student concerns about the climate at city public schools in the wake of Mayor de Blasio’s watering-down of discipline.

But we didn’t detail how the mayor’s folks have stopped asking some important questions.

Pre-de Blasio, the yearly School Surveys asked teachers to agree or disagree (or strongly agree/disagree) with such statements such as:

  • At my school, I am safe.
  • At my school, crime and violence are a problem.
  • At my school, I can get the help I need to address student behavior issues.
  • At my school, students are often harassed or bullied.
  • At my school, gang activity is a problem.

These and five other queries got dropped as de Blasio’s discipline “reforms” kicked in.

So did seven that had been asked of students, including:

  • At my school, there are clear consequences for breaking the rules.
  • Most students at my school treat adults with respect.
  • At my school, there is a person or program that helps students resolve conflicts.

Remember the old saying about not asking a question if you don’t want to hear the answer? These seem to be answers that de Blasio’s Department of Education would rather not have.

Yes, the city added some other questions on safety.

But any pollster or social scientist will tell you that if you keep changing the questions, it’s impossible to really measure changes from year to year — which is plainly the real goal here.

UFT chief Michael Mulgrew has expressed public doubts about the mayor’s moves on school discipline and even suggested they should be judged by their impact on school climate.

But Mulgrew’s friends in city government have made it harder to judge changes in the safety climate.

UFT chief Michael Mulgrew (Image Credit: New York Daily News)
UFT chief Michael Mulgrew (Image Credit: New York Daily News)

Meanwhile, teacher-union allies on the state level have been similarly blurring a school-safety measure they control.

As we noted last year, the state Board of Regents watered down the Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting system, or VADIR — by cutting the list of “incident categories” down from 20 to nine.

The changes drop such serious categories as robbery, theft, larceny, riot and arson and merge several severe offenses with minor ones.

The new system also makes it impossible to monitor weapons seized at school entrances and those recovered in classrooms — and does away with the state’s “persistently dangerous” label for, well, dangerous schools.

Maybe because, well, truth in labeling is a problem if you’re worried about what people will do if they know the truth?

Seems to us that any union worth its salt would be screaming about all this. How about it, Mike?