Monday, April 21, 2008

First steps to end the School to Prison Pipeline

In January, school safety agents at Queens’ P.S. 81 handcuffed Denis Rivera, a 5-year-old special education student, for acting out in his kindergarten class. As if this weren’t bad enough, they took him to Elmhurst Hospital Center’s psychiatric emergency ward. Several months later, he is still sitting at home, waiting for an appropriate placement. (photo at left; credit: Daily News.)

In December, 17-year-old Porsha Newman, a student at Queens’ Information and Technology High School spent three weeks in Rikers when she refused to close her book in class.

In October, Mark Federman, principal of Manhattan’s East Side Community High School, was arrested by school safety agents after he asked them not to humiliate a student in front of her classmates and teachers. Fortunately, charges against this respected principal were recently dropped.

Though we know these problems are systemic, we only hear about specific incidents when they erupt in newspaper headlines, The Student Safety Coalition, a coalition of advocacy, academic and community based organizations, is working for the passage of the Student Safety Act, which would require quarterly reporting by the Department of Education and NYPD to the City Council on safety issues, including incidents involving the arrest, expulsion or suspension of students. It would provide the public with data to study the impact of current disciplinary and security practices, and encourage the crafting of more effective procedures.

The act also would extend the jurisdiction of the Civilian Complaint Review Board to investigate complaints of misconduct levied against school safety agents, who are police department personnel assigned to provide security in the schools. More than 5,000 school safety agents are assigned to the city’s schools, but there is currently no meaningful mechanism for students and their families to report incidents of serious misconduct.

In March, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) urged the United States to take action to end the School to Prison Pipeline, the policies and practices that funnel children of color out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

The committee recommended that our government “encourage school districts to review their ‘zero tolerance’ discipline policies, with a view to limiting the imposition of suspension or expulsion to the most serious cases of school misconduct, and to provide training opportunities for police officers deployed to patrol school hallways.”

Here in New York City, there is a clear need for such reform given the overwhelming police presence in many of our schools, as well as the use of overly harsh discipline methods that lead thousands of students each year to be suspended, drop out, and end up in the prison system.

The City Council must take this opportunity to take the first step in ending the School to Prison Pipeline by passing the Student Safety Act. For more information on joining this campaign, please email cdugger@nyclu.org

New York City, the home of the UN, should be a model for the rest of the world to follow, not a global embarrassment. Our children deserve better.


Chloe Dugger
Coordinator, School to Prison Pipeline Project
New York Civil Liberties Union

6 comments:

Maegan la Mala said...

This is exactly what activist years ago warned everyone about when the DOE handed over school safety to the NYPD. Why would the NYPD inside schools act any different than they do on the streets?

Geoff Brown said...

Teachers are perfectly capable of protecting students, too -- especially if they get the right training & support. For example, many teachers are now trained online as mandated reporters for child abuse. So they know exactly what questions to ask of a student in whom they see possible signs of abuse. Similarly, teachers can handle a lot of "discipline problems" without a police presence.

Anonymous said...

Comment by Zolly:
Stop protecting disruptive children! All that recalcitrant learned was that he can get away with his protests and peoople will be held responsible for attempting to discipline him properly. Had he injured an adult or another child, people would be screaming about that.
New York Schools are in the condition they're in because of the liberal attitude concerning discipline. Children are not effectively disciplined and therefore become bolder in acting out. We have children whose goal is that no one learns when they are present.
Principals fear reporting incidents since the latter may show them to be weak and running out-of-control schools.
As for the little brat, his parents are looking for a big lawsuit. He will be a major discipline problem as he goes on in school. Wake up and discipline youngsters! Bring back the 600 schools for the unruly. We need work-study programs for older disruptive pupils and SHORTER school days for young children who can't control themselves. Teachers are not psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers.
Class size means nothing, Leonie Haimson and others, when you have disruptive children in these rooms. All it takes is for 1 child to ruin the education of the others.
When you erase this article, the only one you hurt are children who come to school to learn. Teachers are there to teach. They are not the police.

Sarah Moskowette said...

I believe race played a major role in this case. Had it been a child of a different color or the situation took place in a private institution or a facility with better trained professionals this situation would have not escalated this far. Unfortunately many things have not changed in today’s society, and I believe race played a major part in this case. Why is it that schools are so quick to include police when it comes down to so called " disruptive acts" committed by African American students. And since when is reading a book and refusing to put it away when the teacher ask being disruptive? Obviously the public school system has a separate way of disciplining it's African American students, then they do students of other ethnicities. I believe this story is just a depiction of one of the many problems facing the African American community and people need to not justify the actions of the schools but to find out the root of the problem. The person who stated the comment before this is a perfect example of ignorace.

Anonymous said...

I believe race played a major role in this case. Had it been a child of a different color or the situation took place in a private institution or a facility with better trained professionals this situation would have not escalated this far. Unfortunately many things have not changed in today’s society, and I believe race played a major part in this case. Why is it that schools are so quick to include police when it comes down to so called " disruptive acts" committed by African American students. And since when is reading a book and refusing to put it away when the teacher ask being disruptive? Obviously the public school system has a separate way of disciplining it's African American students, then they do students of other ethnicities. I believe this story is just a depiction of one of the many problems facing the African American community and people need to not justify the actions of the schools but to find out the root of the problem. The person who stated the comment before this is just ignorant.

Anonymous said...

FYI-This young lady had just returned to school after an operation. She refused to stay at home to recuperate, instead she wanted to get back to school to catch up on her work. You see prior to the incident of porsha being arrested, there were several complaints put in regarding harassment and assault on Porshas' mom by Safety officer at Info Tech H.S, whom was ultimately fired.
Retaliation by school personnel, they know who they are, and others who were close to the fred safety officer,at every opportunity they made Porshas life in that school a living hell. However Porsha refused to be ran out of the school, she felt she had every right to a fair and safe education, but the staff there had other plans for this child. They waited for the opportunity to set Porsha up, then turn the tables on her to make sure she leaves the school. I believe that anyone working in our childrens schools should be trained in the psychology of the developmental stages of adolescents behavior and be given proper guidelines on how to deal with students.
A lot of the safety officers amd school staff only require minimal education themselves, but yet they are responsible for our children? What's wrong with that picture?
What gets done when these people abuse our children? Who believes us when we report those few? Nobody! They are all in on the coverup!