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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Over-Punishment in New York City Schools Has No Positive Outcome

I have been the advocate for more than 100 children who have been suspended from their respective New York City schools, so I know what is going on. The same process used to unfairly accuse a teacher of some kind of misconduct and get him/her removed from the school in which he/she works is used against children of color every day. I fight this, just as I fight suspending a child for no reason. See my article on "T":

T Wins at His Impartial Hearing After the NYC Board of Education Denies Him a Free and Appropriate Public Education

I can say that a child of color with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) has no chance to succeed in the New York City public school system.

The NYC public school system targets children, and forces their parents to accept a sentence of "a few months" in a detention center as punishment for crimes that were never committed. The 'School To Prison Pipeline' is alive and well.

Criminalizing the Classroom

November 29, 2009
Over-Punishment in Schools
New York Times

New York City joined a national trend in 1998 when it put the police in charge of school security. The consensus is that public schools are now safe. But juvenile justice advocates across the country are rightly worried about policies under which children are sometimes arrested and criminalized for behavior that once was dealt with by principals or guidance counselors working with a student’s parents.

Children who are singled out for arrest and suspension are at greater risk of dropping out and becoming permanently entangled with the criminal justice system. It is especially troubling that these children tend to be disproportionately black and Hispanic, and often have emotional problems or learning disabilities.

School officials in several cities have identified overpolicing as a problem in itself. The New York City Council has taken a first cut at the problem by drafting a bill, the Student Safety Act, that would bring badly needed accountability and transparency to the issue.

The draft bill would require police and education officials to file regular reports that would show how suspensions and other sanctions affect minority children, children with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. Detailed reports from the Police Department would show which students were arrested or issued summonses and why, so that lawmakers could get a sense of where overpolicing might be a problem.

Most important, the bill would create an easily navigable system under which parents, students and teachers could file complaints against school security officers. This provision comes in response to a 2007 report by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which said students were being roughed up for minor infractions like talking back or walking the halls without a pass.

The Police Department and the Department of Education are sometimes stingy with data. But the City Council is on the right track when it says that the disciplinary system could benefit from greater transparency. Lawmakers who are negotiating with the city over the language of the bill should keep this basic point in mind.

November 4th, 2009
Problems with over-policing our schools

By Marian Wright Edelman

Imagine being four years old and put into handcuffs because you and your friend wouldn’t take a nap in your pre-K class. Or being five years old, handcuffed, and taken away from your school by ambulance to a hospital psychiatric ward after throwing a tantrum in the kindergarten room. These scenarios might sound far-fetched, but both are true stories that captured the local media’s attention after they happened to children at their New York City public schools. The over-policing of public schools - not just in New York, but around the country - is one more threat to our nation’s children at risk of entering the pipeline to prison.

In New York, the expanded police presence started becoming especially obvious about ten years ago when the New York Police Department (NYPD) took control over school safety from the Board of Education. By the start of the 2005-06 school year, the NYPD employed 4,625 School Safety Agents in New York City schools - more personnel than there are officers in the police forces of Washington, DC, Detroit, Boston or Las Vegas, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) report, "Criminalizing the Classroom: The Over-Policing of New York City Schools." In addition to increasing the numbers of these school safety agents, who are unarmed but can make arrests, the city also launched the Impact Schools Initiative, in which armed police officers have been deployed in the city’s "most dangerous" schools. Modeled after the NYPD’s Operation Impact program for fighting street crime, the initiative is designed to flood those schools with armed officers and surveillance cameras. Over the last five years, a total of 28 schools have been designated as "impact schools."

A June 2005 report by the Drum Major Institute found that impact schools were among the most overcrowded and underfunded in the city and serve a student body that is disproportionately poor, Black and over-age for their grade. Another report by Fordham University found that targeting a school as an impact school led to a significant decline in attendance there. This is exactly the opposite of what schools serving poor, at-risk youths should want to happen. But since the NYPD-takeover of school security, many students and teachers have said that their schools feel more like prisons than places of learning.

One English teacher described the scene this way in the NYCLU report: "On this random Wednesday morning, scanners were set up in the cafeteria of the public high school in the South Bronx where I work. Students’ bags were placed on a scanner, they were forced to walk through metal detectors, and any item deemed inappropriate for school - including food, keys and spare change - were taken away. Many students were patted down, some even with their hands on a police car. An overwhelming ratio of adults to students made the cafeteria seem a lot like a police station...[C]an we please not treat already-struggling, inner city teenagers who have gotten themselves to school like they’ve committed a crime?"

In some ways, the sense that too many schools are turning into prisons is very real. Students are learning that many school disciplinary incidents, including the kind that used to end with a trip to the principal’s office, can now lead to an arrest. The NYCLU recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request in order to obtain police arrest data, and learned that the NYPD has illegally arrested over 300 students under age 16 for non-criminal violations such as loitering and disorderly conduct. Under state law, children younger than 16 can only be taken into custody without a warrant if they have committed a crime, not a violation. But the incidents mentioned earlier about the four-year-olds at a Bronx public school and the five-year-old Queens kindergartner only highlight how soon children can be at risk of over-policing in schools.

In response to the excesses of school policing in New York City, the NYCLU has convened a Student Safety Coalition to address the school-to-prison pipeline in that city and promote solutions. Children’s Defense Fund–New York is an active member of this coalition and is working with others to promote positive approaches to school safety and discipline. We are also collaborating with the NYCLU and a group of other organizations on the School to Prison Pipeline Mapping for Action Project, whose goal is to map out current policies that push children out of school and into the juvenile justice and adult criminal justice system, so that changes can be made to stop them. It’s an important step, and the problem certainly doesn’t begin or end with New York City. At-risk schools in New York and across the country deserve to be flooded with resources and support instead of police. And students at those schools need to be applauded and encouraged for being at school and wanting to learn, not made to feel as if they are criminals just for trying to go to class. It is time to treat children as children and not as criminals - especially at very early ages.

Related story:

NYPD on Track to Interrogate Record Number of Innocent New Yorkers in 2009,
New Stop-and-Frisk Numbers Show


* The First Quarter Stop-and-Frisk Report (2009) (1.43 MB)
* The Second Quarter Stop-and-Frisk Report (2009) (1.42 MB)
* The Third Quarter Stop-and-Frisk Report (2009) (1.93 MB)

Related Publications:

* Palm Card: What to Do If You're Stopped by the Police (English and Spanish) (2004)

November 19, 2009 — The NYPD is on track to stop and interrogate a record number of totally innocent New Yorkers in 2009, according to police reports obtained and analyzed by the New York Civil Liberties Union this week. During the first nine months of 2009, police made more than 404,000 stops of completely innocent New Yorkers – the overwhelming majority of whom were black and Latino. If stops continue at this pace, 535,000 completely innocent New Yorkers will suffer through street interrogations in 2009 – the most ever since the Department began collecting data on its troubling stop-and-frisk program.

“A practice that wastes an officer’s valuable time with a 90 percent fail rate – while at the same time humiliating hundreds of thousands of black and brown New Yorkers – is not a wise or effective policing technique,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “It is a stunning abuse of power. It is not a crime to walk down the street in New York City, yet every day innocent black and brown New Yorkers are turned into suspects for doing just that.”

The NYPD stopped and interrogated New Yorkers 137,894 times between July and September. Nearly nine out of 10 of these stops resulted in no charges or citations. This record number of stops fell disproportionately on the city’s communities of color – 77,308 of those stopped were black and 41,103 of those stopped were Latino, while only 12,398 were white.

Between April and June, police stopped and interrogated New Yorkers 140,552 times. The Department made another 171,094 stops between January and March. Overall, this record number of stops represents a 15 percent increase from the stops conducted during the first nine months of 2008. If stops continue at this pace, the NYPD will conduct a record 610,000 stops in 2009. In 2008, the current record, police stopped New Yorkers 531,159 times.

The Department is then recording the name and home address of every person stopped – including the millions of completely innocent New Yorkers who have been stopped over the years.

“The NYPD is building a massive database of black and brown New Yorkers,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn. “Innocent New Yorkers who are the victims of unjustified police stops should not suffer the further harm of having their personal information kept in an NYPD database, which simply makes them targets for future investigations.”

The NYCLU has for years been advocating against the Department’s excessive use of street interrogations and has been fighting for details of the program to be released to the public for debate. In the summer of 2007, the NYCLU served the NYPD with a formal legal request to turn over the complete stop-and-frisk database under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. The Department resisted transparency and so, in November 2007, the NYCLU filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court challenging the NYPD. In May of 2008, the NYCLU won that case and received the database.

The NYCLU requested the information to allow for an independent analysis of the Department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which have been the subject of enormous controversy since the 1999 shooting death of Amadou Diallo.

The NYCLU’s concerns about excessive numbers of stops are supported by the RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Department in 2007. That report estimated that, “[e]ven with the most liberal assumptions,” one would expect the NYPD to have “roughly 250,000 to 330,000 stops” each year. Even when measured against the most permissive of standards, the NYPD is on its way to conducting 300,000 more stops than would be expected.