High Schoolers Protest Student Arrests and Jail-Like Police Presence

Students and advocates call for better school safety policies. (Photo from Dignity in Schools, via Amsterdam News)

At a protest last month, high school students described a jail-like atmosphere in their schools, where small disciplinary infractions lead to arrests by police officers and the security process can take up to an hour each morning.

During the demonstration at Manhattan’s at One Police Plaza on Feb. 22, advocates released NYPD statistics on the number of arrests made in schools. According to the data, from Oct. 1 to Dec. 30 of last year, police arrested 279 students — which comes out to over five student arrests per school day during the 55 days of instruction over that period — with 93.5 percent of those arrests involving either a black or Latino student.

The New York Civil Liberties Union, which organized the protest with the Dignity in Schools Campaign, put the statistics in perspective:

Among arrested students – the only group for whom racial data was released – 60 percent were black. Black students comprise only 29 percent of the student population in city schools. Black students are almost 9 times more likely to be arrested than white students.

Amsterdam News reported that most of the arrests were for minor offenses. According to the NYCLU, “While the numbers do not describe the specifics of each incident that took place, accounts of student arrests for offenses like writing on a desk, cursing and pushing or shoving all point to police personnel becoming involved in disciplinary infractions that should be handled by educators.”

The Manhattan Times quoted the NYCLU’s executive director, Donna Lieberman, at the rally, who summed it up as, “Children are being sent to the precinct instead of the principal’s office.”

The Washington Heights/Inwood-based publication also quoted one of the student speakers, Nadia Ouedraogo:

Nadia Ouedraogo, student at Bronx International High School

Nadia Ouedraogo (Photo by Sandra E. García/Manhattan Times)

“I am an immigrant, and in my school, most students are black or Latinos. Every day, we are treated like we are criminals,” said 18-year-old Nadia Ouedraogo, who spoke out at One Police Plaza. “We have cops everywhere, not security guards, real cops, every single day.”

Ouedraogo attends Bronx International High School on Boston Road, and said she was frustrated by the negative environment fostered by what she termed an excessive police presence – and intervention.

“I feel like this is happening because we are located in the Bronx,” insisted Ouedraogo. “Police officers automatically think that we are criminals, but we are not.”

Other protesters described a jail-like atmosphere in schools:

17-year-old Cadijah Hyacinth said she was tired of being reminded of what a jail is like every morning.

When she shows up for school, she has to get patted down, take off her sneakers, go through a metal detector, and many times, empty out her book bag.

“I feel like I’m not supposed to be going to school; I feel like I’m learning to go to prison, it’s not an encouraging environment to learn in,” said Hyacinth.

“There are cameras everywhere; the metal detector process sometimes takes up to an hour and 9 times out of 10 students are not carrying weapons,” added Hyacinth, who attends Humanities High School in lower Manhattan.

Ouedraogo, who serves as a peer mediator at Bronx International High School, suggested, “Schools should try peer mentoring or a social worker or more instructive ways of controlling students.”

“We don’t want to be treated like animals or criminals,” said Oeudraogo. “We want to be treated like teenagers, students, real people.”

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  1. Pingback: Black and Latino Students Make Up Over 96 Percent of School Arrests | Welcome to The Haitian Times

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