November 28, 2011
New York City police officers arrested or ticketed an average of four students per day in schools over a four-month period this summer and fall.
The statistic comes from New York Police Department data released today under the terms of a new city law that requires the Department of Education and NYPD to disclose information about arrests and suspensions that take place in schools.
A total of 63 arrests – one fifth of them for felonies – were made and 182 summonses issued in city schools over a span of 50 school days between July and September, according to the data, which the New York Civil Liberties Union published on its website. Most of the quarterly reporting period took place during the summer session, when enrollment is just 10 percent of the school-year total. Arrest totals are likely to be much higher when school is in session full time.
More than a third of the students arrested — 22 — were charged with assault, and more than half of summonses issued were for disorderly conduct. Riding a bike on the sidewalk was the second most common reason cited when issuing a summons, which typically requires a student to take time off of school to appear in court.
More than 80 percent of students arrested were male and 44 percent were younger than 16. All but four of the students arrested were black or Latino.
“The data raise concerns about black students being disproportionally arrested in the city’s schools,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
DOE data released earlier this month showed that 83 percent of suspensions last year were issued to black and Hispanic students, who make up about 70 percent of students in the city schools.
Both the suspension and arrest data were released under the terms of the Student Safety Act, a law the City Council passed last year to require transparency about discipline in city schools. Since 1998, NYPD has been authorized to provide law enforcement inside city schools, but the department’s repeatedly refusals to release arrest information to the public led civil rights groups, including the NYCLU, to push for the Student Safety Act.
Earlier this month, the DOE held up its end of the act’s compliance requirements by releasing the suspension data, but the NYCLU accused the NYPD of stonewalling. Today, the group questioned whether the new data represented a complete accounting of arrests since the statistics account only for arrests made by school safety officers and omit arrests made by other police officers who are called in to schools. In addition, the NYPD did not release a required race breakdown for the summonses issued.
Udi Ofer, the NYCLU’s advocacy director, said the new data renewed questions about the city’s approach to student discipline.
“Instead of arresting students who need the most help, the Bloomberg administration should redirect resources from police to services that support student achievement,” Ofer said in a statement. “Why are we employing 5,400 police personnel [in schools] and only 3,000 guidance counselors?”