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Students Take A Walk

Some carried signs saying, "Get the cops out of the schools. We are not criminals." Other students from August Martin High School carried posterboards calling for a specific police officers removal.They were all part of a walkout at the Jamaica school, Monday morning, to protest what they say is mistreatment by the NYPD that began last week.
Approximately 50 students left August Martin at 9 a.m., demanding the end of police harassment and an increase in resources at their school. They were joined by Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron. Congressman Gregory Meeks also made an appearance.
According to the protesters, problems with police began last Wednesday when two fights erupted and seven students were arrested. The protesters say what followed was a three-day sweep by cops that brought more than 10 arrests.
Tamara Simmons, an 11th grader and one of the students who helped organize the walkout, said she was unfairly arrested during the initial fight on Wednesday.
"I was watching the fight, then I was leaving," said Simmons. "The cop pushed me, then pushed me again."
Simmons said she was cuffed and slapped with a $25 summons for disorderly conduct.
The protesters also demanded that an Officer Campbell, the school safety officer at August Martin, from the 113th Precinct, be removed. They said the officer harasses innocent students.
A community affairs officer from the 113th Precinct said the allegations are being investigated, but there has been no decision to reassign Campbell. She noted that the school security staff at August Martin fully support Campbell.
"He is doing a great job there," she said.
During the walkout, August Martin principal Geri Taylor Brown and Region 5 superintendent Kathleen Cashin talked to the protesting students and persuaded them to return to the schools auditorium for more discussions.
Simmons said, during the auditorium talks, students reiterated their demands for Officer Campbells removal. Students also blasted the school for its paucity of textbooks.
"We have to get handouts from teachers," said Simmons, noting there were not enough books to take from the school to do homework. "If we want to read a novel, we have to read during the class."
Simmons said another walkout would take place next week if there were no changes at the school.
Congressman Meeks said he plans to investigate the problems students are reporting about Officer Campbell.
"We are here to educate kids and not arrest them," said Meeks.
In the beginning of January, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced a new safety plan in conjunction with the NYPD to crack down on school violence. The program targeted 12 "impact schools" throughout the city that are considered the most violent, and bolstered them with additional police officers. Though August Martin is not one of these 12, NYPD listed it last week as one of the 10 most dangerous schools in Queens.

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