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Policemen in School Corridors?

In late 1948, New York City School Superintendent William Jansen authorized investigations of teachers suspected of radical communist leanings, among them Abraham Lederman who served as president of the city’s radical, activist Teachers’ Union.

Lederman and his union criticized Jansen and the Board of Education on many issues, including alleged racism in textbooks, and especially an article by Superintendent Jansen which asserted that “the native people of Africa, who belong to the Negro race, are very backward.” The Teachers’ Union published materials on African American history and the struggle for school integration.

Policemen in School Corridors?

US News and World Report, December 5, 1957, pg. 94.

“Juvenile crime in New York public schools now becomes so serious that a grand jury wants to put police inside each school. “Blackboard jungles,” mostly in Negro and Puerto Rican areas, give most difficulty. Crime complaints exceed 2,100 this year. Must schools be policed? A top official says: “We do not want a Little Rock in New York City.” Yet trouble is mounting.

New York City —  Serious trouble in the public schools of the nation’s largest city broke into the open last week, with a recommendation for drastic action. Delinquency of all kinds has been growing, with 1,280 arrests made on New York school grounds thus far during the year. These had been for offenses ranging from petty thievery to rape and murder.

A special grand jury, investigating lawlessness in Brooklyn’s public schools, came up on November 25 with this terse recommendation: “Be it resolved that the grand jury proposes an interim recommendation, based on testimony heard from witnesses to date.

The grand jury recommends that a uniformed New York City policeman be assigned to all schools throughout the city to patrol the corridors, the stairways and the recreation yards as a preventive measure.”

Reaction to this proposal to keep police inside of New York schools was swift. New York’s Superintendent of Schools, William Jansen, called it “unthinkable.” He added, “We do not want a Little Rock in New York City.” “When the schools need police help, they get it promptly and efficiently,” Dr. Jensen said.

Nevertheless, there was agreement that the situation in the city’s public schools was serious and close to being out of hand. Discussions between police and school officials on the problem of providing adequate police protection to the public schools has been underway for some time.

The judge who presided over the grand jury’s investigation [said that] “grand jury has evidence before it to establish that conditions are alarming and that the school authorities have been utterly incapable of coping with the situation.”

Most of these “difficult” schools, as listed by the city’s Board of Education, are situated in predominantly Negro and Puerto Rican neighborhoods. Student “achievement levels” there are generally far below the average for the city. Discipline often is a major problem.

Teachers are reported to be frequently defied by pupils and, in some instances, to be threatened with physical harm by gang members who invade the classrooms. The facts now coming to light about New York’s school problem indicate that troubles here run deep. Serious school problems, it appears, is not confined to the South.”

(Policemen in School Corridors? US News and World Report, December 5, 1957, pg. 94)

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