Benjamin Franklin school announces it will send students to precinct if parents are late
On Sept. 11, parents of children who go to P.S./I.S. 157 in Brooklyn woke up to a disturbing announcement: Any children whose parents are 15 minutes late picking them up from school will be sent to the local 79th police Precinct, and parents will have to pick them up from there. The 79th Precinct is about a half hour walk from the school.
Kourtney Boyd, principal of the Pre-K through Eighth Grade school, which serves primarily low-income Black and Hispanic families, said in the announcement that parents have a 15 minute grace period because unexpected things can occur throughout the day. But after that, Boyd wrote, the children will be taken to the precinct “for their safety,.”
When asked about the announcement, school officials claimed that a NYC Department of Education policy gave the school the authorization to drop students off at local precincts should parents fail to pick up their children on time. Yet this reporter could not locate any such policy from the D.O.E.
Neither the school’s website nor the electronic handbook the school provides to parents mention the 15 minute grace period or the consequences of failing to pick up children on time. The parent handbook and school website also contain no mention of the 79th precinct.
While waiting outside the school to pick up their children, some parents said they were unaware of the exact location of the 79th precinct. Some confused it with the 88th precinct, which is a 10 minute walk away from the school and much closer than the 79th precinct.
On Oct 11th, as the end of the school day at 2:20 p.m. approached, parents began to arrive en masse. Some arrived well before the dismissal bell to chat with other parents.
Luesa Escamilla, 41, said in Spanish that she left work early to arrive 15 minutes before the dismissal bell. Escamilla agreed with the school’s policy, saying parents should pay attention to their children.
“I think the announcement is ok because as long as you arrive on time there should not be an issue,” she said.
Karla Guzman, 24, who regularly walks to the school, disagreed, saying the grace period is too short. “I just think it’s a little bit extreme. “I don’t think it should come to those measures, especially if you have working parents.”
Guzman added that sending children to the precinct could cause long-lasting trauma.
Carmen Nagera, 42, was unaware of the new policy until this reporter told her about it.
“I think that it is unjust” said Nagera, who added she walks 20 minutes every day to pick up her niece from school. “They can’t just send us to the police station because we are a little bit late.”
NYC Public School Press Secretary, Nathaniel Styer, said in an email to this reporter, the school’s message regarding D.O.E policy was incorrect. The following day on Oct 12, principal Boyd issued a correction regarding the New York City Public School policies.
Boyd wrote, “It is important to note that it is not the policy of NYCPS to have families meet children at the precinct when they are not picked up on time.” In bold
letters Boyd acknowledged that the action of sending children to the precinct is considered a last resort for emergency situations.
Joyce McMillan, Executive Director of JMACforFamilies, a non-profit organization dedicated to family advocacy, called Principal Boyd and discussed the Sept 11 announcement.
“People get stuck on the train all the time,” McMillan said. “These are things parents cannot control. Why would you have a 15-minute grace period and have the resolution be to take them to a precinct?”
McMillan said she wished the principal had asked parents to volunteer to care for the children after school instead.
The 79th precinct Neighborhood Coordination Officers did not respond to request for comment regarding the precinct’s involvement with the schools announcement.
Edward Lopez is receiving his Masters of Science In Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Originally from California, Lopez is now reporting in New York.
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