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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Criminalizing the Classroom -- and NYC students

The New York Civil Liberties Union has released a scathing critique of school policing practices, based on over 1,000 interviews and surveys, describing how NYC students have become criminalized as a consequence of overly aggressive policing operations, which in many instances, have led to less safety in schools rather than more.

The documented behavior of the police and School Safety Agents includes derogatory, abusive comments and conduct; intrusive searches; inappropriate sexual attention; physical abuse; and arrests of students for minor violations, or for nothing at all.

Countless armed NYPD officers along with thousands of SSAs patrol our schools every day -- the total number of whom constitute the tenth largest police force in the country -- more than Washington DC, Detroit, Baltimore and many other large cities. San Antonio has only half as many police per resident as NYC schools have per student.

Almost 100,000 students everyday are forced to endure scanners, bag-searches, and pat downs, with no probable cause -- and by personnel who are often abusive and arbitrarily confiscate their possessions, and never return them.

NYC is alone among the largest districts in the country in the manner in which police and agents are assigned to schools who are neither selected, trained or under the authority of the educators in the building, and as a result, our students are suffering.

Here is one story:

Statement of Biko Edwards, Samuel J. Tilden High School

Biko EdwardsIn January of this year I was late to Chemistry Lab because I had been talking with my math teacher after math class. As I was rushing to class, Val Lewis, the Assistant Principal for Security, stopped me in the hallway. Because I was worried that I would be late to Chemistry Lab, which has strict attendance requirements, I asked Officer Lewis let me keep going to class, and I told him that I had been talking with my math teacher. Officer Lewis didn't listen to my explanation and instead told me to go to the "focus room," where we have detention.

I kept begging to go to Chemistry Lab, and Officer Lewis got angry and threatened to send me to the principal's office. Then he ordered a police officer stationed at the school, Officer Rivera, to arrest me. Officer Rivera grabbed me and slammed me against a brick door divider, which cut my face. I was bleeding. Officer Rivera then sprayed Mace in my eyes and face, then called for back-up on his radio and handcuffed me.

Eventually they took me to the hospital, where I spent about two hours handcuffed to a chair and received some treatment for my injuries. Then they took me to the local precinct and to central booking. I missed the rest of my classes that day. Overall I spent more than 28 hours in police custody. I was also suspended for four days.

If it can happen like this in school, imagine what police officers could do to you outside if something like this happened…. Why are they arresting school kids while they're in school? Tensions between students, teachers, principals, and school safety agents wouldn't be as bad if SSAs would do more listening to students and less pushing them around.

Biko Edwards is from Crown Heights and is a seventeen-year-old eleventh-grader at Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn.

An update: in a similar vein, see the new report from NESRI, the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, "Deprived of Dignity: The Degrading Treatment and Abusive discipline in New York City And Los Angeles Public Schools."


Anonymous said...

I'm a school safety agent and I've
seen alot of abuse by agents and cops. I want to apologize for whats
happen to you. I want you to know that we're not all the same. I treat all students and staff members with respect.Please tell your fellow students that they must learn their rights,once students and parents know their rights things will go better for every student.

jamaica said...

Yes, that's true. There have been many abuses going on the campuses and in the classroom. This becomes unnoticed because of the bully thing that is happening. Students should know their rights so that they can defend themsleves.