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Crimes Against N.Y.C. School Employees Increase

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Serious crimes against employees of the New York City Public Schools increased dramatically in the first half of the school year, with the greatest increases coming in elementary and special-education schools, according to a report made public last week.

Reported incidents of crimes against teachers and other school employees in the first half of the current school year were up by 24.6 percent over the the same period last year, the report compiled by the United Federation of Teachers, the union representing school employees, showed.

The biggest increases were in assaults at elementary schools and in special-education classes, which4jumped by 54 percent and 49.2 percent, respectively.

"The special-education statistics are frightening," Sandra Feldman, president of the uft, said in a letter to Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez. "In some of those schools, violence is becoming a working condition. Yet, I understand no action is being taken by headquarters to change the discipline procedures in that division."

The number of incidents reported in special education jumped from 137 in the 1988-89 school year to 221 in the first six months of this school year--a 61.3 percent increase. The number of assaults increased from 65 to 97, while incidents of harass8ment increased by 9, to 58.

In elementary schools, the number of assaults grew from 87 to 134, while incidents of "reckless endangerment" jumped by 50 percent, to 39. Over all, the number of incidents reported in elementary schools increased from 437 to 541, for a percentage rise of 23.8 percent.

In contrast, the number of reported incidents increased by only 14.7 percent in the city's high schools, and by 20.7 percent in middle schools. The number of assaults in high schools went from 93 last year to 99 this year, a 6.5 percent increase. Assaults in middle schools increased by 34.3 percent, from 99 to 133.

Some of the incidents recounted in the union's report left teachers injured. For example, a 7th-grade teacher lost hearing in both ears following a beating, a 2nd-grade teacher's finger was seriously injured by a bite from a student, and one teacher was cut with a razor blade.

"The majority of the cases in elementary and special education result from a teacher's intervening or breaking up a fight between students, where a teacher is inadvertently injured," said Susan Amlung, a spokesman for the uft

Officials said the findings were a reflection of increased violence among younger children throughout society.

"It is not accurate to describe this as a school phenomenon alone," said Bob Terte, a spokesman for the4school system.

Union officials said stricter discipline and security policies at high schools appear to be responsible for the slower growth in reported crimes there. The policies have included the use of metal detectors and security guards, and the expulsion of students caught carrying weapons or drugs in school or attacking teachers.

Ms. Feldman called for similar measures to be taken at other levels.

"The lack of any serious reforms in discipline for decentralized [elementary and middle] schools and special-education schools is keeping our members and the children in those schools at risk," she said in her letter.

Mr. Fernandez has requested funding for security guards in elementary schools in next year's budget.--mw

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