By Gina Martinez
Minority children are handcuffed disproportionately in crisis incidents in New York City public schools in 2016, according to school safety data.
The New York Civil Liberties Union analyzed New York City data and found that while arrests made by school safety officers are down, NYPD officers are playing a larger role in city school arrests. According to the data, black and Latino students are handcuffed disproportionately and a large percentage of arrests made in schools were for non-school-related incidents that took place off school grounds.
The NYCLU said that more has to be done to eliminate “extreme” racial disparities in who is arrested and given summonses. The civil rights organization said NYPD officers need to cut back on the number of children who are unnecessarily handcuffed and that officers need to lessen their role in school discipline.
“We have made a great deal of progress over the last few years, and it’s very clear that the use of harsh police tactics in school disciplinary matters is neither necessary nor effective to keep children and staff safe,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “We must make sure that NYPD policies and practices in schools foster a safe and supportive learning environment for all children.”
Since 2015, under amendments to the Student Safety Act, the NYPD must now report data on the number of arrests by all officers in schools as well as the use of handcuffs. Data shows that minority students are far more likely to be handcuffed in a “child in crisis” incident, where a student is “displaying signs of emotional distress,” removed from the classroom and taken to a hospital for a psychological evaluation.
In 2016, there were 262 “child in crisis” incidents where handcuffs were used, and 99 percent of those incidents involved black or Latino children, according to city data. The data showed 259 of the students were black and Latino, one student was Native American and two were white.
The data also revealed that although arrests by school safety officers have gone down overall, only 11.5 percent of total arrests in city schools were conducted by school safety officers. The other 88.5 percent of arrests were conducted by NYPD precinct officers. NYCLU said that this is “troubling” because NYPD officers have no training in the school environment. The NYCLU recommended that the city adopt a memorandum of understanding to limit the role of police in school discipline and ensure that NYPD personnel in schools operate in a manner consistent with the best interests of children.
According to the data, more than one quarter of total arrests at schools were for non-school-related incidents that took place off school grounds. The NYCLU said this could mean NYPD officers may be going to schools to target children in conjunction with criminal investigations that have no connection to the school.
“Police officers should never handcuff students who don’t pose an immediate safety threat,” NYCLU Advocacy Director Johanna Miller said. “And the NYPD should not treat schools as places to hunt for students they believe committed a crime off of school grounds. Students should never be afraid to go to school.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart