Schools are a place for learning, not a prison pipeline, elected officials and education advocates said on Tuesday as they called for greater transparency on police activity in city schools.
Tuesday’s rally was held on the steps of City Hall before Councilmembers Vanessa Gibson and Corey Johnson introduced amendments to the School Safety Act, which was originally passed in 2011 and requires the NYPD and Department of Education to update City Council on police activity in schools on a quarterly basis.
The new legislation would require police and schools to report information on the use of metal detectors, restraints and EMS calls, as well as multiple suspensions for the same student and school safety agent complaints. The updated School Safety Act would also require reporting by zip code.
“Schools continue to surprise us with the outrageous methods of discipline, putting children as young as 5 in handcuffs is not right, it is unacceptable,” Gibson said. “Calling EMS for behavioral issues, suspending a student multiple times.”
Data from the fourth quarter of 2014 show there were 259 arrests and summons, more than four a day during the five day period. The Bronx led the five boroughs in the number of arrests and summons, 59 percent of all arrests were black students, and 81.4 percent of all arrests were male students.
Jacqueline Yates, whose 16-year-old son attends a public school, said he was issued a summons for disorderly conduct after having a verbal disagreement with a school safety officer.
“It took three months before we went to court for it … we went in front of the judge, which took 30 seconds,” Yates said. “This is something that happened in the school and I shouldn’t have had to take a day off from work, nor should have my son had to take a day off of school.”
“I want my son to go to school to get a diploma, not a court date,” Yates said.
Lawrence Booker, who attended Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory and is a member of Urban Youth Collaborative, said his high school was a “police school,” and it wasn’t unusual to wait outside for 45 minutes before being able to pass through metal detectors.
Advocates say many behavioral issues can be sorted out with school staff, not police involvement, and believe more counseling — and more data — will help behavioral situations.