Diocese of Brooklyn Students Say They Feel Safe as Violence Surges in NYC Public Schools

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, department of education, Faith, Media, Queens, NY, Violence

By Jessica Easthope

The bell rings and the hallways at St. Francis Prep flood with students. There are 2,400 of them and they say it can get pretty crowded – but what it doesn’t get is violent.

“There’s a lot of security and a lot of protection around me, so I don’t have to be worried about anything,” said 16-year-old junior, Dionis Best.

Dionis carries the weight of his future with him every day. He says at school he’s allowed to stay focused on his work because there’s nothing – and no one to run from.

“I don’t have to constantly worry about being watched or lurked, I can just stay in my books and do what I have to do,” he said.

Dionis and his classmates at Prep are experiencing high school very differently than students at New York City’s public high schools.

This school year alone, 10 firearms and 790 knives were brought to public schools in New York City and from July to October, nine School Safety Agents were injured as the result of student misconduct.

St. Francis Prep High School says they’ve had three incidents of confrontation among students in two years and they don’t keep statistics on weapons brought to school because to their knowledge – it’s never happened.

St. Francis Prep has a zero-tolerance-policy against any violence. There are 150 cameras in the building and ex-NYPD security officers. But these protective measures can only do so much. Principal Patrick McLaughlin says Catholic schools are not immune to violence but rather – have a secret weapon against it.

“That Catholic mission holds everything together. It’s like glue when you have prayer in school,” McLaughlin said.

He’s aware of what goes on in public schools and says many students bring weapons to protect themselves.

“We as Catholic educators have to establish a safe and secure environment for our kids. If we don’t, how can I expect someone to sit in a chemistry class and learn if they’re afraid if someone’s carrying a weapon or will attack them after school,” said McLaughlin.

Dionis says he feels safer at Prep than he does in his corner of East New York – and that’s because he knows people care.

“I’m surrounded by people who care,” Dionis said.

The halls are crowded but with people who make him feel safe.