Parents in New York City are grappling again with how to keep their children safe after the horrific massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
For many, the shooting has added to an already widespread anxiety as crime rates have soared in neighborhoods across the city. Serious crime has increased citywide by 39%, compared to the same period last year, and children and teens have been caught in the crossfire of gun violence.
At the same time, Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD officials announced this week that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of “dangerous instruments” confiscated from schools since students returned from remote learning: Tasers, knives, pepper spray and at least 20 pistols. been seized since September, authorities said. The mayor urged parents to be more vigilant in stemming the flow of guns into schools.
The city’s education department maintains that the schools themselves are safe, pointing to overall reductions this year in dangerous incidents. But some parents say they feel they have to send their children to class with items that can protect them from the violence that has erupted in their communities. Schools Chancellor David Banks said this week that students are “scared when they go to school and when they leave school.”
And while none of the parents Gothamist spoke with said kids should be carrying guns or knives, they argued that students need some measure of protection.
“These young women should be wearing something to defend themselves,” Ashley Carrasco said. She prefers to send her daughter to her South Bronx high school with pepper spray, she said, even though it’s against the rules.
Carrasco said there have been a lot of fights at her daughter’s high school lately and there was a recent shooting a block from the elementary school where she sends her youngest children, just as students were lining up to get in. She said the staff took the children to school when the shots rang out.
Adriana Aviles, a member of the District 26 Community Education Council in Queens, said she wants to pepper-spray her daughter to protect her on the trip to and from her high school in Manhattan, but knows she could be punished for it. Instead, she gave her daughter a small security alarm, which the teenager lost.
“I’m worried, but what am I supposed to do?” Aviles said.
Amy Tsai’s son attends Truman High School in Co-op City, where there were two stabbings of students weeks apart just outside the school gates early last fall. She said there have also been multiple closures in recent months due to violence in the surrounding community.
Tsai, a parent advocate for the City Council for District 75 Schools, said she knows some parents who encourage their children to bring Tasers or razors to school to protect themselves on their daily commute.