Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Public Advocate's Office Requests Data on Unannounced Scanning Program from DOE

A letter from Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum dated February 8, 2008 has been sent to Chancellor Klein expressing disapproval of the DOE's unannounced ("random") scanning program and requesting detailed information on the program's costs, impact on school attendance, and safety enhancement results. Ms. Gotbaum's letter argues that: "This program was implemented without any meaningful public discussion and continues despite growing public concern over the disruption it causes. The DOE has provided little evidence of the program's effectiveness, and there is reason to believe it has done more harm than good."

Ms. Gotbaum's letter continues by noting that "...rather than deterring students from carrying weapons, unannounced scanning actually deters blameless students from attending school...." She further states that parents who disagree or have complained about the scanning program "have been denied a meaningful opportunity to provide their input," and later adds that excessive absences on the days schools are subjected to unannounced scanning are "hardly an acceptable consequence of a program that purports to promote a school environment that is conducive to teaching and learning."

The Public Advocate's requests for information from the DOE are specific and comprehensive, including:

"-- A complete list of every school that has been subject to this program since it began;
-- The dates that scanning took place at each school;
-- A complete breakdown of confiscated and/or cataloged items from the inception of the program to the present including...weapons and other dangerous well as cell phones, ipods, and other electronic devices;
-- The attendance rate at each school on the day(s) the unannounced scanning took place;
-- The attendance rates at each school the day before and the day after the scanning day(s);
-- The average attendance rate at each school where unannounced scanning took place;

-- A cost breakdown of the unannounced scanning program including...the number and cost of portable scanners; their maintenance costs; the personnel costs directly associated with scanning; the personnel costs associated with administration of the program and with other personnel who attempt to prevent children from leaving school grounds or hiding their belonging
s; and the cost of record-keeping, reporting, and program administration."

Ms. Gotbaum's letter is a direct consequence of a posting on the NYC Public School Parents blog concerning the effect of random scanning at John Bowne High School on January 10 of this year. That posting, in turn, came about due to the past reporting of public school parents from Forest Hills, John Bowne, and Benjamin Cardozo high schools at the nyceducationnews Yahoo group ( Many thanks to each of these parents for their timely news postings that enabled us to accumulate concrete information about the negative attendance effects of this DOE program. Thanks as well, of course, to Ms. Gotbaum and to Tomas Hunt in the Public Advocate's Office. We will hopefully have more to report in the coming weeks.

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