August Martin teenagers protest alleged brutality

By Courtney Dentch

Scores of students lined up along the edge of the sidewalk outside the facility, carrying posters and shouting “education not incarceration” and “we are not criminals” days after three teenage girls contended they were unnecessarily arrested and harassed by a school safety guard.

Neither the New York Police Department, which assigns the school safety officers nor the city Department of Education could confirm the students' accounts.

“We're out here because we want to stop the police brutality,” said Shanequa Simmons, a senior from Springfield Gardens. “The cops beat up kids. The kids get arrested in school.”

Students from the Baisley Boulevard school said about a dozen teens were arrested after a Feb. 25 fight, even though many were not involved in the incident. Two of the girls alleged one officer dragged a girl by her handcuffs and punched a pregnant girl in the stomach.

“We were just watching a fight that broke out – we were walking home,” said Latrez McMillan, one of the girls who said she was arrested. “He put me in handcuffs and dragged me by the handcuffs.”

Latoya Jenkins, a junior, said the officer struck her in the stomach even though she is pregnant.

“He just arrested anybody he could,” she said. “He hit me in the stomach and everyone started yelling that I'm pregnant.”

Others said the officers treat the students as if they were criminals and make their school feel like a prison.

“It's making us not want to be in school,” said a junior named Kevin. “We feel like we're confined.”

The NYPD had no reports about the incident, a spokesman said.

The Department of Education had no information on the fight or arrests, and a spokesman defended the school safety officers.

“Increasing the number of officers is just one aspect of our comprehensive safety efforts, which include completely analyzing all of these schools, providing supports for our students, such as counseling and mediation, and transforming the overall culture in the schools,” said Paul Rose, a spokesman for the Department of Education.

City Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) lent his voice to the cause after students told him about the protest.

“The mayor said he would put a cop next to every student if he had to,” he said. “How about putting a textbook next to every student? How about putting a computer next to every student?”

The protest came days after the school was listed as the third most dangerous high school in Queens by the Department of Education. The list looks at the number of misdemeanor and felony incidents at city schools reported to the NYPD

August Martin reported 14.3 incidents per 1,000 students in the 2002-2003 school year, according to Department of Education figures. The school has 1,645 students.

Jamaica High School, with 2,467 students, was the worst in the borough, reporting 14.7 incidents per 1,000 students. Citywide, Jamaica High School appears on the list at No. 27, the figures show.

Beach Channel High School in the Rockaways had 14.6 incidents per 1,000 students and has 2,524 students. Springfield Gardens High School, with 1,620 students, reported 13.6 incidents, and Franklin K. Lane High School in Woodhaven rounded out the top five with 10.8 incidents per 1,000 students. Lane has 3,773 students.

Four high schools in the borough reported no misdemeanor or felony incidents: The Academy of American Studies, the Baccalaureate School for Global Education, Middle College High School and the International High School, all in Long Island City.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

More from Around New York