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Thursday, October 9, 2008

NYPD illegally arresting children in school

More than 300 New York City public school students were illegally arrested on school grounds between 2005 and 2007, according to NYPD data the New York Civil Liberties Union and American Civil Liberties Union obtained in a Freedom of Information Law request.

New York State law prohibits children 15 and younger from being arrested for minor, non-criminal violations like loitering. A child who commits a minor infraction at school may be disciplined, but the Family Court Act prohibits police from arresting the child.

The NYCLU and ACLU have sent Police Commissioner Ray Kelly a letter urging him to immediately end the practice of illegally arresting schoolchildren.

As appalling as these illegal arrests are, a look at school discipline practices in New York City public schools makes it clear how they were allowed to occur. Since 1998, mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg have assigned more than 5,000 school safety agents and at least 200 armed police officers to the city’s schools, making the NYPD’s school safety division larger than all but four of the nation’s police forces – larger than Washington DC, Detroit, Boston or Las Vegas.

The aggressive policing of New York City’s schools reflects a national trend that pushes students – overwhelmingly youth of color and students with special needs – from the education system into the criminal justice system. Arresting, handcuffing and hauling children out of their classes for minor infractions at school - in front of their teachers and peers - only stigmatizes and humiliates them.

Read about this story in The New York Times and the Daily News. Then read about the Student Safety Act – a commonsense first step to end the use of these overly aggressive police tactics in our schools. The act – Intro. 816 – is currently before the New York City Council.

-Jennifer Carnig, New York Civil Liberties Union

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