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NYC's Newest Safety Plan: New Schools for Troublemakers

In New York City, everything is grand, even the plan "Operation Safe Schools" for addressing discipline problems among students.

The broad plan not only includes adding surveillance cameras but creating new centers for the students with the most serious behavior problems.

In creating a new Department of Education Office of School Safety and Planning and appointing Benjamin B. Tucker as its chief executive, the new schools are part of the chancellor's idea of safety. The new office will work with NYC police and the mayor's criminal justice coordinator to implement a comprehensive school safety plan and provide support to schools on effective, coordinated use of disciplinary tools, truancy, prevention programs and school safety resources.

The strategy involves removing students from schools who commit repeated serious infractions, such as weapons infractions, or violence toward others, according to Tucker. The removed students will undergo a program change to "New Beginnings" program centers, where they will remain for a semester.

Up to 17 centers will be created throughout the city by next fall during the pilot phase, but six already opened as of May. And each "New Beginnings" center will operate at a community-based site, serving between 40 and 60 students.

Several community-based organizations, including the YMCA, N.Y. City Mission Society and the Mosholu Montefiore community center, will work with the young people. The centers will operate during regular school hours, and the staff from the community-based organizations will work as partners with school teachers, who will work full-time at the centers, and a guidance counselor, according to Paul Rose, a spokesman for the city's Department of Education.

Students in such centers will get involved in project-based learning as well as receive typical schooling that is consistent with math and reading requirements that all city students use toward graduating.

"The underlying objective of the centers places an emphasis on providing the support services needed to effect positive change in student behavior and attitude," Tucker says. And removing such disruptive students from regular classes will yield broad benefits and create a more orderly environment, he says.

Are Criminals Volunteering in Your School?

It takes seconds, and it could mean protecting a student from a pedophile roaming your halls unattended.

Volunteers who tutor K-12 students in reading and math in Memphis (Tenn.) Public Schools are screened before they even step into school buildings. And every visitor, including parents and plumbers, at the Carpenter Elementary School in the Deer Park (Texas) Independent School District is screened before they can roam school halls.

Such screening is done via The national online database has 123 million criminal records from the state, county and local levels of government. And checks on the site can yield 40 percent more records than traditional courthouse searches. The service also offers sex offender records for 32 states.

"People are becoming more aware I think because of all the media attention toward kids being kidnapped or abused," says Bill Whitford, chief operating officer of

"Until the Internet, there was no way to check a large amount of data in a large geographic area," says Camille Gamble, spokeswoman. "One out of eight men in this country have a felony record."

In Memphis, Our Children, Our Future is a year-old, one-on-one volunteer tutoring program for Memphis K-12 public students in reading and math. Volunteers are recruited and then trained. Then, they are screened via "We knew we weren't going to send volunteers into schools without background checks," says Barbara Dawson, volunteer program manager of Our Children, Our Future.

Using a swipe machine and computer, they use a person's license to check for any problems. With a name and birthdate, a general background check is performed. If further research is required, the social security number is typed in. It shows speeding tickets as well as public intoxication and assaults. And even if volunteers have some record, they consider the time that has lapsed. "I think it makes the school administrators a lot more comfortable with the volunteers who go into the schools," Dawson says.

At W. A. Carpenter Elementary School in Deer Park, Texas, officials use the database of iOffice Corp., based in Houston. iOffice offers to the school iCampusVisit, an online service which includes listings of the sex offender registry, and the driver's license swipe machine as part of a pilot program. Earlier in the school year, an intruder had stolen two purses from teachers during the school day. So administrators started to think about additional safety features.

"We were interested in getting away from a paper system in addition to being able to verify and identify registered sex offenders in our area," says Martha Roehrick, school secretary who meets visitors at the front desk. Before, local police supplied about 10 to 12 pages of registered sex offenders in the area. But with iCampusVisit, she can swipe the visitor's driver's license and know if they were convicted or not. If there are no flags, a visitor badge is automatically printed out. "We've been lucky enough not to find anyone," she says. But if there were an alert on someone and they were convicted, they would be asked to leave the school grounds immediately. She would then call police.

Under a federal law, if someone runs a criminal check for business purposes, the person needs to give their OK. If someone just wants to check out if a neighbor or potential tenant in an apartment is a creep, the person can check it without the person in question knowing, Gamble says.,