York Civil Liberties Union has expressed outrage over the treatment of a
5-year-old who was handcuffed for misbehaving in his kindergarten class, saying
the incident illustrates the severity of what can happen when discipline is
pulled from the hands of educators and taken over by the NYPD.
Rivera, who suffers from speech problems, asthma and attention deficit
disorder, threw a temper tantrum in his kindergarten class at Public School 81
in Queens, according to reports in the Daily News. Rather than calling the
boy’s parents, a school safety agent handcuffed the boy’s hands behind his back
as if he were a criminal.
should be a wake-up call to the mayor, the City Council and the Department of
Education: There is a crisis in our schools," said Donna Lieberman, executive
director of the NYCLU. "Once upon a time it would have been unthinkable to
imagine a five-year-old in handcuffs, but since school discipline has been
turned over to the NYPD, behavior problems have turned into criminal matters,
and youth of color and children with disabilities are paying the price."
taking control of school safety in 1998, the NYPD has assigned more than 5,000
school safety agents and at least 200 armed police officers to the city’s
public schools. This massive presence would make the NYPD’s school safety
division the fifth largest police force in the country larger than Washington DC, Detroit, Boston or Las Vegas.
over-policing of schools often puts students at risk. As documented in the
NYCLU’s recent Criminalizing the Classroom report, students say that school
safety agents often abuse their authority, act belligerently and
disrespectfully, and provoke students into confrontations.
There is no
effective mechanism to hold school safety agents accountable for this
misconduct, and the lack of oversight of police personnel in schools allows
abuse to occur unchecked. Even with no effective process to report misconduct,
the NYPD received more than 2,700 complaints since 2002 about police abuse in
for a major overhaul of school discipline practices and the restoration of the
nurturing educational environment our children need in order to learn and
thrive," Lieberman said. "The Student Safety Act is an important first step
toward this goal."
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. It would provide the public
with raw data to study the impact of disciplinary and security policies and
practices, and encourage the crafting of more effective policies.
The act also
would extend the jurisdiction of the Civilian Complaint Review Board to include
complaints of misconduct levied against school safety agents, NYPD personnel
assigned to provide security in the schools. More than 5,000 school safety
agents are assigned to the city’s schools, but there is currently no meaningful
mechanism for parents and students to report safety agent abuse.
This act is
supported by organizations such as Advocates for Children, Correctional
Association, Make the Road New York, National Economic and Social
Rights Initiative, New York Civil Liberties Union, Teachers Unite, the Urban
Youth Collaborative and Children’s Defense Fund.