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Jamaica High dean says city schools remain unsafe

"My fear is that no one really cares about the safety of teachers, deans and security personnel, and most of all the safety of our students," said Brett Rosenthal, the dean of security at Jamaica High. "New York City schools are gang-infested. Our children are being victimized on a daily basis by robberies, assaults and gang activity."Moved by what he called a "moral obligation," Rosenthal called the office of Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, and the two held a news conference outside his school March 3. Rosenthal said despite statistics provided by the city showing an improvement in safety, "nothing could be further from the truth."In particular, Rosenthal said students given a superintendent's suspension often return to the site of their offense rather than being placed in a new school. As a result, he said, their victims must once again see them in the hallways."It is the victims that get victimized over and over again," Rosenthal said. The dean also noted that superintendent's suspensions required excessive paperwork, leading to delays in removing violent students from school."Here's another example of a policy, announced with much fanfare, that has turned out to be a failure," Gotbaum said, referring to Bloomberg's and Klein's efforts at curbing violence in the education system. "Dangerous kids are allowed to stay in their schools and continue to victimize other students. That's exactly the type of problem the (Department of Education) promised to solve."Gotbaum said the department had a stricter suspension policy at the 22 schools on Bloomberg's special "Impact" list, which receive more school safety officers. Among the 22, Franklin K. Lane High School on the Brooklyn-Queens border and Far Rockaway High School will be phased out of the program because of improved safety, while John Bowne High School in Flushing and Springfield Gardens High School will be added. Among the original 16 schools on the list, major crime dropped 43 percent and overall crime declined 33 percent.An investigation by Gotbaum's office earlier this year revealed that suspended students at non-Impact schools often end up back at the same location. She said the city should adopt a "clear and concise" suspension policy for the whole city. "The mayor is only paying attention and putting resources into 16 schools and neglecting all the rest," Gotbaum said. If changes are not made, she added, "all hell is going to break lose in our schools."Responding to the charges, a spokeswoman for the Education Department said, "contrary to the public advocate's remarks, the facts show that Jamaica (High School) is effectively enforcing the discipline code and doing an excellent job in reducing crime and misbehavior." She pointed out that major crime at the school was down more than 37 percent and total crime down more than 21 percent.Since his criticism of the system, Rosenthal said the department had not approached him to get his suggestions on changes to the suspension policy. "I honestly believe no one cares," he said.Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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