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Alarming Trend of Arrests in NYC Public Schools

| Aug 7, 2012 | Civil Rights

Since January 2012, the New York City Police Department has made 327 arrests and issued 555 summonses to public school students. The numbers reveal an increase compared to police data from October through December of 2011, where 279 students were arrested.

Though many of the arrests were for serious crimes, many of the summonses were issued for what appears to be minor transgressions. Donna Lieberman, the Executive Director of New York Civil Liberties Union; questioned these actions and stated “these minor transgressions ought to be dealt with by educators, not the police.”

The New York Police Department is required by law to release data of school arrests, summons and noncriminal incidents to the New York Civil Liberties Union, per the Student Safety Act. After complaints from civil rights groups that officers moved too quickly to arrest students for minor infractions, the City Council passed the Act in 2010. The summonses were for violations of disorderly conduct, carrying knives, and possession of marijuana.

Ms. Lieberman presented the recent data to the media, stating; “the arrest numbers represents the continuation of an alarming trend in the New York City public schools…and there’s no way that disorderly conduct is something that should require the police.” Students 16 and 17 were the most likely to be arrested however, three 11-year children and seven 12 year old children were arrested as well, including one for assault in the second degree.

The police data also revealed a racial component. 64% of arrests made from January 2012 until now were made on black students, up 4% compared to the number of black student arrests from October to December of 2011. More than half the summonses were issued in the Bronx, which represents 21 percent of the city’s students

The ramifications of suspensions and/or expulsions resulting from arrests or summonses could be profoundly detrimental to the student’s academic and social standing. The increasing trend of police arrests in the schools, especially the arrests for transgressions that should be handled by the schools, is of serious concern to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

A civil law attorney can assist in ensuring that a person’s civil rights are protected. Public schools have broad authority to enforce their rules and regulations and by transferring school discipline issues to the police raises speculation whether the student’s civil rights are being fully protected.

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