New York Civil Liberties Union Files Lawsuit Against NYPD Over "Wrongful Arrests and Excessive Force" In City Schools

Categories: Education
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From New Settlement Parent Action Committee flier.

It looks like it's no longer just Bronx parents asking the DOE and the NYPD: Why so many student arrests?

Last month we attended a roundtable hosted by the New Settlement Parent Action Committee and other community organizers that brought together concerned Bronx parents, students and representatives from the DOE and NYPD School Safety Division. The discussion focused on the high number of arrests in the borough. From January to March of this year there were 327 student arrests alone.

The nearly two-hour long meeting ended with a lot of conversation but not a clear idea about how to move forward. The group agreed to meet again, in smaller groups, to begin working together on how to lower the high number of arrests, and the first "working group" meeting took place yesterday.

In the meantime the New York Civil Liberties Union has decided to take action against the police department as it has filed a lawsuit on the grounds that the department has a "practice of wrongfully arresting and using excessive force against children" in city schools according to the New York Times.

The civil liberties group found that police made 882 student arrests in the city last year from data compiled by the police department.

In addition to questioning the high number of arrests as well as the force used, the group is calling into question the large percentage of minority students who comprise these figures. According to the group 95 percent of the students arrested last year were Black and Latino.

This was also a concern mentioned at last month's roundtable in the Bronx, and as previously reported by the Voice.

In a statement to the New York Times the civil liberties group claimed that the figures show that police are, "getting involved in noncriminal disciplinary incidents."

Schools are staffed with school safety officers, who do not carry guns, and a relatively small number of what is known as "impact schools" have armed officers from the Uniformed Services Task Force that are permitted to carry weapons. The school safety division merged with the New York Police Department in the late 90's after previously being under the supervision of the DOE, and since then safety officers have received training from the police department. The training which is 15 weeks long contains three weeks specifically dedicated to conflict resolution, mediation and working with special education students. 

A representative at the DOE contacted by the Times pointed to a decline in crime in schools in defense of the student arrest figures. Similarly NYPD Assistant Chief Brian Conroy defended high arrest numbers to Bronx parents last month when he said "Crime in schools has been at its lowest in the last two years than in all of the years such data has been recorded."

The effects of this lawsuit on student arrest in the city remains to be seen but as one Bronx student said to the DOE and NYPD last month, students also want to be involved in the conversation.

"Students say: 'I wish they would come and talk to us. When kids are being defiant, it's because they feel like they're not being heard. As students we need that time from you guys," said Aiesha a high school senior.

The City Council is set to hold a public hearing on this issue sometime in October.


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