Equal pay

De Blasio moves to settle school safety agents' pay discrimination lawsuit

PHOTO: Emma Sokoloff-Rubin
School safety agent Kangela Moore speaks in favor of a tentative contract agreement between the city and her union.

Safety agents who work in schools across the city will soon receive raises, as the de Blasio administration moves to settle two labor issues at once.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that the city has reached a tentative contract agreement with the union that represents school safety agents. In addition to a 10 percent pay increase over the course of the seven-and-a-half year contract, the city has proposed a resolution to the 2010 pay discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of school safety agents, 70 percent of whom are women.

The new contract would bring the maximum pay for school safety agents in line with that of special officers, who have similar responsibilities but are stationed in hospitals and homeless shelters. Sixty percent of special officers are male, and special officers make an average of $7,000 more per year than school safety agents.

“We have a moral, human obligation to ensure that everyone is treated equally in all forms of employment,” de Blasio said at the Cobble Hill School for American Studies in Brooklyn.

With more than 5,000 agents stationed in schools, the New York Police Department’s school safety division constitutes the fifth-largest police force in the country. Their role in schools—including how much power they have to discipline students and who has a say in their training—has been the subject of ongoing debate, particularly during the mayoral election.

A.J. Garrett, an agent at P.S. 397 in Brooklyn, said the move toward equal pay is long overdue.

“We’re there for the kids. We counsel the kids, we talk to them, we protect them,” she said.

Under the proposed settlement for school safety agents, which is pending court approval, agents who have worked for at least three years will receive approximately $7,000 in retroactive pay, as will agents who retired in the last four years. Agents who left service in good standing will receive smaller retroactive payments. The payments will cost the city $38 million.

Local 237 represents both school safety agents and special officers. If ratified, their new contract will extend retroactively from September 2010 to March 2018. Union members will also receive a one-time payment of $1,000.

The gross cost of the contract is $145.5 million, but as with the teacher’s union contract, the city plans to cover a large portion of that cost by reducing health-care spending.

De Blasio and Local 237 President Gregory Floyd stood side-by-side at the press conference, reinforcing de Blasio’s image as a labor-friendly mayor concerned about equality.

“What this states is that school safety agents are looked at as vital part of our school system, and we do a vital job,” said Kanjela Moore, who has worked as a school safety agent for 22 years.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.