February 2016 Church & State - February 2015

New York City Subsidizes Security For Religious Schools

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New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio has signed a bill to reimburse sectarian private schools for the cost of hiring security guards. The New York City Council initially voted to pass the measure in December.

“You can imagine, in the environment we’ve been in the last few months, how much communities are concerned,” DeBlasio said. 

Council member David Greenfield told WNYC that he introduced the bill due to recent school shootings. “I introduced this legislation originally post-Sandy Hook, when it was clear that non-public schools do not have the protections that the public schools had,” he said. The Washington Post reported that Greenfield represents Borough Park, which is home to a number of Jewish day schools.

Greenfield had initially proposed deploying resource officers from the New York City Police Department to private schools, but backed down after department officials objected. The bill’s current iteration allows private schools to hire guards and request reimbursement from the city. The council expects to pay $19.8 million during the program’s first year.

The Orthodox Union, the Archdiocese of New York and the Islamic Schools Association endorsed the bill; the city Department of Education and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) opposed it.

“This feels like pandering to the religious lobby,” the NYCLU’s Donna Lieberman told The New York Times. “We have every confidence that the [police] can figure out how to provide adequate levels of protection without this mandate, which is really yet another mechanism to provide government funding for religious education.”

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