The mayor says schools are safer than ever, but some school advocates say the lower crime rate is coming at the cost of students’ civil liberties.
Just last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a news conference to announce another drop in school crime. He credited the police department, and the school safety agents who have been NYPD employees since the Rudolph Giuliani administration.
On Thursday, some students and **advocates demonstrated at City Hall in Manhattan to say the crime-fighting emphasis makes schools feel like prisons.
"We’re faced with being pushed around and yelled at by school safety agents, missing classes and unreasonable searches. We’re students not criminals," said student **Jaritza Geigel.
"I remember once when our school had a lockdown, they took every single student and frisked them top to bottom," said student Lorenzo Sewanan.
The protesters say that when law enforcement gets involved in school discipline, what might have warranted a suspension now results in an arrest.
"In these schools with permanent metal detectors, 77 percent of police interventions are for non-criminal incidents, like disorderly conduct, not criminal offenses," said Udi Ofer of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "The police is getting involved in school discipline."
Some city lawmakers and the NYCLU say it’s time for the public to know how many schoolchildren are getting arrested and for what offenses. Currently, the public and press has no access to such information.
The data would be made public by the newly-proposed School Safety Act, which was immediately endorsed by 23 of 51 City Council members.
"So that the information can be analyzed," said Democratic Manhattan Councilman Robert Jackson. "Is there racism going on? Is there sexism going on? Are they picking on students who have special needs?"
The bill would also let students and parents file complaints against school safety agents with a civilian complaint review board, just as with regular cops.
The DOE says it won’t comment on pending legislation but the safety agents’ union blasted the bill, saying it "punishes safety agents who protect our schools for political purposes."
Council hearings on the bill are expected sometime in the next two months.**Including Make the Road New York Youth Leaders and hundreds of members of the Student Security Reform Coalition.
**MRNY School Safety Campaign Youth Leader.