The New York Civil Liberties Union this week demanded that the NYPD stop arresting underage kids in city schools who have not committed crimes. The practice is not only illegal, the NYCLU insists, but criminalizes children as young as 11 for behavior that in another era might have been met by a simple detention.
As The Riverdale Press reported in August, finding out just how many crimes occur in city schools is a difficult task.
The NYCLU got its hands on data from the NYPD, revealing that between 2005 and 2007, officers assigned to city schools arrested about 300 children under the age of 16 for offenses like disorderly conduct, loitering and trespassing.
“Across the country, resource-strapped school districts have all but abandoned the goal of providing a quality education to every student and are instead focusing on ways to push ‘problem’ students out of mainstream educational settings,” the NYCLU wrote in its letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. “As a result, the most neglected and underserved students – youth of color and those with special needs – are being criminalized.
“The problem is particularly acute in New York City where there are more than 5,000 school safety agents and at least 200 armed police officers in the city’s public schools – a force larger than all but four of the nation’s police departments.”
At some schools, truly innocuous offenses are often met with police action. At John F. Kennedy High School, senior Stephen Obeng-Agyapong said officers seem unnecessarily rough on students.
“Like hats,” he said. “They’ll confiscate it, but they won’t give it back.”
Mr. Obeng-Agyapong was jolted last year when he watched an officer try to break up a fight in the hallway and accidentally push a student down the stairs.
“They can be real aggressive,” he said.
Crime at the school seems like it has dropped since Mr. Obeng-Agyapong was a freshman, he said, but he isn’t sure if the heightened security and police presence were such a good trade-off.
Since airport-style metal detectors were installed at the entrance to the school a few years ago, students aren’t allowed to bring cell phone with them to school.
“I come home late because I play football,” he said. “I’d like to call my parents and let them know when I’m coming home,” the student said.
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