HARLEM — The city's school safety officers are trained to get students and teachers to safety instead of confronting shooters in schools, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Tuesday as the nation continued to reel from the Newtown, Conn. school massacre that left 20 young children dead.
The NYPD has more than 5,000 school safety agents assigned to schools across the city — at least one per school — but while they all receive a day of "active shooter training," they do not carry guns and are told not to try to disarm a gun-wielding assailant, Kelly said.
"We want them to focus on the safety of the students and teachers... That's what they're focused on: first aid, getting people to safety," Kelly told reporters at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, before he kicked off the first day of multicultural training for 1,200 NYPD recruits.
"They don't have weapons," Kelly continued. "We don't expect them to take on someone who has a gun."
The NYPD also has 350 armed police officers in the city's schools, Kelly said.
"We have a broad, comprehensive security program for our school system,” Kelly said.
Department of Education spokeswoman Erin Hughes said the city has not made any changes to its protocol in the wake of the Connecticut shootings, but added that, in addition to school safety officers, the DOE keeps careful tabs on school visitors, who are required to present IDs and sign in when they arrive.
Schools also conduct safety drills to prepare staff and students for emergencies, including lockdowns, she said.
“Our normal safety protocols and procedures are in place and we have been in constant communication with the NYPD and their School Safety Division,” Hughes said.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the heads of the teachers' and principals' unions sent school principals and staff a joint letter Monday asking them to review their visitor control procedures as well as protocols for responding to lockdowns and evacuations.
They also offered support for coping with the tragedy.
“As school resumes today, it is important to offer solace and support to your colleagues so we can be strong enough to take care of our students,” they wrote, advising that, if children want to talk about what happened, “schools should provide a safe place to have those conversations.”
“The Department of Education, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, and the United Federation of Teachers are working together to make sure that our schools are safe and that staff and students have the support they need to move forward following this tragic event," they added.