New York City Schools – Circa 1957
Policemen in School Corridors?
The US News & World Report, December 6, 1957, pg. 94.
“Juvenile crime in New York public schools no 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 2100 this year. Must schools be policed? A top official says, “We do not want 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 had been growing with 1280 arrests made on New York City school grounds thus far this 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:
“This 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 preventative measure.”
Reaction to the proposal was swift. New York City Superintendent of Schools William Jansen called it “unthinkable.”
Nevertheless, there was agreement that the situation was serious and close to being out of hand. The judge presiding over the grand jury, Samuel Leibowitz stated that “conditions were alarming and that school authorities have been utterly incapable of coping with the situation.”
Most of the “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 below the average for the city and discipline 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 at-school crime that finally touched off the grand jury probe occurred in September at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn. There, a 17-year-old Negro boy hurled a bottle of lye into a classroom, partially blinding one boy and splattering 18 other pupils and the teacher.
Fear of being assigned to a difficult school has hurt teacher recruiting efforts although the extent of the damage cannot be measured. The facts now coming to light about New York’s school problem indicate that troubles here run deep, and serious school problems, it appears, are not confined to the American South.”