By Patrick Donachie
A city program intended to keep students in the classroom and out of the courtroom for minor infractions is expanding to 34 new high schools on 11 campuses, including several in Queens.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced the expansion of the Warning Card program Monday. The Queens schools include Richmond Hill High School, Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside, and John Bowne High School, located in Flushing.
“Our students belong in the classroom, learning with their peers,” de Blasio said. “Through our investments in school-based interventions, we are improving student behavior while keeping our teens out of trouble, and the effects are undeniable — crime is at an all-time low and graduation is at an all-time high.”
The city’s Warning Card Program offers NYPD officers and School Safety Agents greater discretion when encountering students in possession of small amounts of marijuana or engaging in disorderly conduct on school property. Officers and agents may issue a warning in lieu of a criminal summons to students who are 16 years of age or older.
The program began with a pilot at the start of the 2015–2016 school year at several campuses in the Bronx, and since then there has been a 14-percent reduction in criminal summonses for minor marijuana possession and disorderly conduct at those campuses, according to the mayor’s office.
The expansion coming this spring will add 34 schools in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, bringing the Warning Card program to 74 schools in total.
The city will also expand the School Justice Project citywide this year, which offers free legal assistance to students with a focus on clearing summonses to reduce unnecessary arrests of students. The program aims to deal with students’ interactions with the criminal justice system at the outset, to avoid more serious consequences in the future.
“The NYPD is actively committed to the safety of our students — whether it is through the actions of our crossing guards, school safety agents or police officers who, each day, dedicate themselves to the protection of the city’s children and schools,” said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. “We are proud to see this reduction in enforcement activity, and are working to ensure that this trend continues through the expansion of initiatives such as the Warning Card Program.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona