En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Make the Road New York
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Press Advisory

Hundreds Rally Against Overly Aggressive Police Tactics in Schools, Demand Passage of Student Safety Act

For Immediate Release:

The New York Civil Liberties Union, Make the Road New York, the Urban Youth Collaborative
and their partners in the Student Safety Coalition today joined
Councilman Robert Jackson in introducing legislation that would bring
transparency and accountability to the massive police presence in New
York City’s schools.

"We urge the City Council to pass this
sensible legislation quickly," said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive
director. "The Student Safety Act will shed much-needed light on police
practices in our classrooms. It is a good first step toward
establishing school safety procedures that promote learning instead of
intimidation and unwarranted arrests." 

The Student Safety Act
would require quarterly reporting by the Department of Education and
NYPD to the City Council on school safety issues, including incidents
involving the arrest, expulsion or suspension of students, and a
breakdown of information by students’ race, sex, and disability status.
It also would expand the jurisdiction of the Civilian Complaint Review
Board to include complaints against school safety agents, NYPD
employees who have not had the rigorous training required to work in a
school environment, yet patrol the schools and have the power to frisk,
search and arrest students.

Since taking control of school
safety in 1998, mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg assigned more than 5,000
school safety agents and at least 200 armed police officers to the
city’s public schools. This massive presence makes 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. That
massive, unchecked presence creates a hostile atmosphere that makes it
difficult to learn and often leads to the mistreatment of students and
educators.

Twenty-four City Council members are cosponsoring the bill, which Councilman Jackson officially introduced today.  

"I
am proud to introduce this important legislation with the support of so
many of my colleagues," said Councilman Jackson, chairman of the
council’s Education Committee. "It is a common-sense solution that is
long overdue. Ensuring students’ safety is not a controversial matter.
We all want safe schools, and this bill helps us meet that goal."

This
last school year alone, school safety agents handcuffed Denis Rivera, a
5-year-old special education student, for throwing a temper tantrum in
his kindergarten class. Mark Federman, a principal at East Side
Community High School, was arrested for trying to prevent the police
from humiliating his student. And last school year, 13-year-old Chelsea
Fraser was handcuffed and arrested for scribbling "okay" on her desk.

These are not isolated incidents. They are just the few that have made headlines.

"Overly
aggressive police tactics in school disrupts learning," said Udi Ofer,
NYCLU advocacy director. "Too often minor disciplinary infractions that
once resulted in a trip to the principal’s office now result in a trip
to the precinct. Being late to class or writing on your desk should not
be treated like a criminal act. Yet our kids are getting arrested for
it."

Few students, parents and educators know of how to file a
misconduct complaint against student safety agents. Yet even without a
publicized mechanism for reporting abuse, Commissioner Ray Kelly has
reported that the NYPD received more than 2,700 complaints from
2002-2007 about police misconduct in schools.

The Student
Safety Act will provide a means for registering complaints with the
CCRB against NYPD personnel in the schools. It also will provide the
public with raw data to study the impact of disciplinary and security
practices, and encourage the crafting of more effective procedures.

"Students
face harassment from School Safety Agents on a daily basis. We’re
students, not criminals," said 17-year-old Jaritza Geigel, a student at
Bushwick School for Social Justice and a youth leader from Make the
Road – New York. "Students have the right to go to school each day free
from harassment. With 5,000 School Safety Agents patrolling our
schools, there needs to be a meaningful way to hold them accountable.
Passing the Student Safety Act is the first necessary step in creating
safe and respectful schools."

WHAT:   Press conference and rally to introduce the Student Safety Act

WHERE: City Hall, front steps

WHEN:   Thursday, Aug. 14, 11 a.m.

WHO:      Hundreds of students and members of the Student Safety Coalition, with speakers:

  • Udi Ofer, NYCLU advocacy director
  • Councilman Robert Jackson, chairman of the Education Committee
  • Yvonne Webster, parent
  • Jartiza Geigel, high school student, Make the Road New York
  • Damon Hewitt, assistant counsel, NAACP-Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Nancy Ginsburg, director of Adolescent Intervention and Diversion Team,
    The Legal Aid Society

The
Student Safety Coalition is composed of the following organizations:
Advocates for Children of New York, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys,
UAW 2325, Children’s Defense Fund – New York, Class Size Matters,
Correctional Association of New York, CUNY Graduate Center
Participatory Action Research Collective, Make the Road New York,
NAACP-Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Economic and Social
Rights Initiative, National Lawyers Guild – New York City Chapter,
NYCLU, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Suspension
Representation Project, Teachers Unite, and Urban Youth Collaborative.