On March 8th, The New Settlement Parent Action Committee(PAC), Dignity in Schools Campaign-NY, Sistas and Brothas United(SBU), Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice(YMPJ) Youth on the Move(YOM), Legal Services NYC-Bronx, Pomphouse Projects, Latino Pastoral Action Center, Mass Transit Street Theater, Assemblywomen Vanessa Gibson, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Staff from Borough President Ruben Diaz’s Office, and many more came together to demand a serious change within our school system and the actions of the NYPD within our schools.
Noting, The Bronx has the highest rate of arrests of all five boroughs. Recent data released under the Student Safety Act-new legislation that disaggregates statistics on arrests and summonses by race, age, and gender – shows that disproportionate impact that harsh punitive measures in New York City schools have had on the Bronx, particularly on youth of color.
Out of the whopping 532 summonses issued to new York City students to appear in court during the last 3 months of 2011, the Bronx alone accounted for nearly half of all cases. 63% of those summonses were for charges of “disorderly conduct.” Unbelievably, 93.5% of nearly 300 students arrested in the same period were either Black or Latino – and here too, the Bronx topped the list as the borough with the highest percentage of school-based arrests.
New NYPD Data Shows Racial Disparities in NYC School Arrests
Police arrested or ticketed about 14 students each day in New York City public schools from October through December, according to NYPD data released today by the New York Civil Liberties Union and its partners in the Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York. About 94 percent of students arrested were black or Latino; 75 percent were male.
Among arrested students – the only group for whom racial data was released – 60 percent were black. Black students comprise only 29 percent of the student population in city schools. Black students are almost 9 times more likely to be arrested than white students.
“This data demonstrates that the impact of heavy-handed policing in city schools falls mostly on African American students who suffer more than 60 percent of the arrests, and on male students who suffered nearly three-quarters of all arrests,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “If the Bloomberg administration is truly serious about helping young men of color succeed, then they must address these disparities and focus more attention on educating children—not arresting them.”
According to the data, which covered Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 (55 school days), there were 279 total arrests – more than five per day. Police issued 532 summonses – about nine per day. About 20 percent of youth arrested were between 11 and 14 years old.
Though the data does not describe the facts of the incidents, when viewed against the backdrop of the many accounts of student arrests for offenses like writing on a desk, cursing, and pushing or shoving, all indicators point to police personnel becoming involved in disciplinary infractions that should be handled by educators.
“This data confirms that in just three months, too many school children were treated as criminals for minor infractions and pushed into the criminal justice system—often for behavior that probably should merit a trip to the principal’s office,” Lieberman said. “We call on the mayor, the schools chancellor and the police commissioner to commission an independent audit of these incidents of arrests to assess whether these situations would be better handled by educators. And to find out what the impact has been on children who misbehaved and, as a result, were sent into the criminal justice system.”
The Student Safety Act, enacted in 2011, requires the NYPD to submit quarterly reports to the City Council on arrests, summonses and other police-student interactions in the schools. This is the second data filing since the law went into effect. It is the first to encompass months in which school was in full session.
The NYCLU’s Analysis
The NYPD’s Data
The School to Prison Pipeline is a nationwide system of local, state and federal education and public safety policies that pushes students out of school and into the criminal justice system. This system disproportionately targets youth of color and youth with disabilities. Inequities in areas such as school discipline, policing practices, high-stakes testing and the prison industry contribute to the pipeline.
The School to Prison Pipeline operates directly and indirectly. Schools directly send students into the pipeline through zero tolerance policies that involve the police in minor incidents and often lead to arrests, juvenile detention referrals, and even criminal charges and incarceration. Schools indirectly push students towards the criminal justice system by excluding them from school through suspension, expulsion, discouragement and high stakes testing requirements.
As the rates of discipline have dramatically increased, disciplinary disparities on racial lines have become more pervasive. Students of color, particularly African-American boys, account for an overwhelming number of school-enforced punishments, as well as the majority of arrests for school-related incidents around the country. African-American students overall are now nearly three times as likely to be suspended, and Latino students are nearly one-and-a-half times as likely to be suspended, as their white peers.
Historical inequalities in the education system—segregated education, concentrated poverty, and longstanding stereotypes—influence how school officials and law enforcement both label children and treat students who present challenging behavior. Studies show that students of color receive harsher punishments for engaging in the same conduct as white students. Racially isolated schools that primarily educate students of color are more likely to be among the nation’s “dropout factories” and also among those that utilize the harshest, most exclusionary means of discipline.
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