It's teacher hunting season!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Criminalizing the Classroom - It has gone overboard under Bloomberg

Truth be told the NYPD replaced the NYC Board of Education-provided police by a 1998 Board of Education vote; however, conditions have worsened for our schoolchildren under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Click here for the NYCLU report, "Criminalizing the Classroom."

The blog, "Bloomberg Watch," has a valuable summary of the report on the rough mistreatment of public school students.
At the start of the 2005-2006 school year, the city employed a total of 4,625 School Safety Agents (SSAs) and at least 200 armed police officers assigned exclusively to schools. These numbers would make the NYPD’s School Safety Division alone the tenth largest police force in the country – larger than the police forces of Washington, D.C., Detroit, Boston, or Las Vegas.

Because these school-assigned police personnel are not directly subject to the supervisory authority of school administrators, and because they often have not been adequately trained to work in educational settings, SSAs and police officers often arrogate to themselves authority that extends well beyond the narrow mission of securing the safety of the students and teachers. They enforce school rules relating to dress and appearance. They make up their own rules regarding food or other objects that have nothing whatsoever to do with school safety.

On occasion they subject educators who question the NYPD’s treatment of students to retaliatory arrests. More routinely, according to our interviews and survey, they subject students to inappropriate treatment including:

• Derogatory, abusive and discriminatory comments and conduct;
• Intrusive searches;
• Unauthorized confiscation of students’ personal items, including food, cameras and essential school supplies;
• Inappropriate sexual attention;
• Physical abuse; and
• Arrest for minor non-criminal violations of school rules.


Throughout the morning, police personnel hurled invective and threats at the students they were charged with protecting. Officers threatened students with arrest for refusing to turn over cell phones, for stepping out of line, and for refusing to be scanned. Officers cursed at students and scoffed at educators. When a student wandered out of line, officers screamed, “Get the f--- back in line!” When a school counselor asked the officers to refrain from cursing, one officer retorted, “I can do and say whatever I want,” and continued, with her colleagues, to curse.

The threats of arrest turned out to be more than bluster. Several Wadleigh students were hauled to the 28th Police Precinct that morning for minor non-criminal violations of school rules. Among them was Carlos, an eleventh grader and Vice-President of the School Government Association. Carlos, who worked thirty to forty hours each week after school and needed to communicate frequently with his mother about his whereabouts, did not want the police to confiscate his cell phone. When he became aware of the police activity in the school, he chose to remain outside in order to call his mother and ask her to pick up the phone, which she agreed to do.

As Carlos stood outside the school, a police officer approached and asked for identification. Carlos explained: “My mother’s on the way. She should be just up the block. You can talk to her.” In response, the officer said to a second officer, “What are we going to do with this smart aleck? The second officer replied, “Take him to the precinct.”

The officers handcuffed Carlos, seized his cell phone, forced him into a police vehicle, and took him to the precinct without informing school officials or his mother. At the precinct, Carlos was ordered to remove his belt and shoelaces and was forced into a cell. Meanwhile, Carlos’s mother – who did not find Carlos waiting for her when she arrived at the school to pick up his cell phone – began a frantic search for her child. Many phone calls later, she learned that Carlos had been arrested. When she arrived at the precinct, officers returned Carlos’s phone to her, but refused to release her son into her care. Carlos was released only after his mother had finally left the precinct. Upon his release, the officers issued him a summons threatening that if he did not appear in court, a warrant would be issued for his arrest. The charges were ultimately dropped. What happened to Carlos and the other students at Wadleigh Secondary School on November 17 was not an aberration. In fact, this scenario takes place in New York City schools every day.

I supported Bill de Blasio for Public Advocate; I would hope that, in office, he will advocate for the children and stop this flagrant abuse of the children.

I supported the formation of the Coalition for Public Education; stopping the police abuse of our city's schoolchildren should be a number one agenda item for the organization.

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