‘They don’t care if we live or die’

Despite the city Department of Education’s mantra that “safety is our highest priority,” the city fails to provide safety officers to guard all the youngsters in its pre-K programs, The Post has learned.

The city contracts with some 1,300 community-based organizations, or CBOs, to run classes for roughly 63,000 three- and 4-year-olds — about 60% of all preschoolers in the DOE.

But the city does not assign NYPD school safety agents to those contracted programs, leaving its littlest and most vulnerable students unprotected.

“I feel that regardless of the location, they should all be protected,” pre-K mom Wanda Shiver said. J.C. Rice

“There’s a bunch of babies – and nobody at the door,” Brieann Duberry, a pre-K staffer and mom, told The Post. 

The city’s funding of CBO 3-K and pre-K centers, which is based on enrollment, does not cover security. Some Pre-K directors use part of their city funding to hire private security guards, but that cuts into their budgets for teachers and classroom supplies. 

“At the end of the day, we’re not important to the higher-ups,” said Wanda Shiver, whose son Dedjima-Yaw, 4, attends a Bronx CBO pre-K.

Parents like Shiver rely on group chats and the Citizen app for alerts about crime near their kids’ schools. J.C. Rice

“We’re talking about children, so I feel that regardless of the location, they should all be protected.”

In addition, the DOE’s $42.6 million plan to install remote door-locking systems in all schools does not cover the CBO pre-Ks.

“We don’t get as many services as the regular DOE schools, but we deserve the same level of security,” said pre-K mom Angelie Capestany, whose child attends a Bronx CBO preschool in a NYCHA complex.

Without a safety officer tuned into the NYPD, staffers and parents rely on group chats and the Citizen neighborhood-watch app for crime alerts. 

Pre-Ks and 3-Ks located in DOE buildings like this one automatically get staffed with NYPD school safety agents. Obtained by The New York Post

“If something happens in the surrounding NYCHA buildings, we are the last to know,” Capestany said. “We don’t have a direct connection to our local police precinct.”

Chloe Pashman, a Bronx pre-K director, recalls a frantic phone call from a nearby NYCHA employee who heard gunshots.

The school staff quickly corralled the kids and moved them indoors.

“These are young children’s lives and the lives of already underpaid staff members and teachers,” Pashman said in disgust. “They don’t care if we live or die.”

DOE pre-Ks in city-owned buildings are staffed with one or more safety agents, but none guard CBO centers. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/Shutterstock

All DOE schools are staffed with one or more safety agents — though the force has shrunk by more than 25% since the pandemic.

The unarmed officers, hired and trained by the NYPD, patrol a school’s surroundings, operate metal detectors, screen visitors and keep out intruders.

They have direct communication with the cops.

“School safety agents are not deployed to buildings that are not located on, owned or managed Department of Education property,” an NYPD spokesman confirmed, citing an agreement between the police department and the DOE.

NYPD Inspector Tracy Mulet, chief of the school safety division, was not made available for an interview.

CBO early childhood centers create their own safety plans, and require staff to double as guards. Paul Martinka

A DOE insider blasted the school system’s top safety chief Mark Rampersant for a failure to fix the problem.

“There is nothing that has stopped Rampersant and his team from developing a plan to bring safety personnel to all the early childhood education sites, including charter schools — other than the fact that they just don’t care.”

DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer said, “We support our CBO partners at every step of this work, including providing large-scale safety trainings for CBOs” and “by putting them in touch with Borough Safety Directors…at the behest of” the deputy chancellor for early childhood education, Kara Ahmed.

Multiple CBO directors disputed the DOE statement.

“We don’t have access to borough safety directors. Nobody knows who they are,” Pashman said.

Others said, “Never heard of such a person” and “Never knew they existed.”

In a recent text message to Pashman, Craig Goldsberry, a director of safety and security in the chancellor’s office, confirmed that CBOs don’t have borough safety directors.

Pashman has asked the DOE for on-site assistance with evacuation plans and active shooter drills but hasn’t gotten the help, she said.

CBO early childhood centers create their own safety plans, and require staff to double as guards.

“They want us to do the job of safety officers,” the Brooklyn director said.

Worsening the pre-K inequities, most of the CBO programs are located in low-income neighborhoods.

“In my daughter’s school, there many Hispanic and black people. We work, but we don’t make a lot of money, and not everyone speaks English,” said Vania Perez, a Bronx mom of two.

“They don’t listen to us.”

Leave a Comment