Report Denounces Criminalization of Black and Latino Students

NYPD school safety car (Photo by Canadian Pacific, Creative Commons license)

Black and Latino students, who represent 69 percent of all students, make up more than 90 percent of all students fined and arrested, a figure that reveals that they are being overwhelmingly criminalized, according to a New York City schools safety report covering the 2015-2016 year.

In response to the report, the Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC) published statements from a number of its organizations and members, in which they also condemn the fact that Black and Latino students are being represented disproportionately in juvenile reports and that they are handcuffed without having committed an offense.

“In 2017, a reduction in the schools’ racially discriminatory policies should not be an acceptable measure of success. The fact that almost all students accused of offenses are Black and Latino demonstrates that we are still being seen intrinsically as criminals. We need all Black and other minority youths to be valued by responses that take us to see counselors, not police officers,” said Amagwu, a 17-year-old Egyptian-born high school student from Brooklyn.

Kesi Foster, UYC coordinator, highlighted that the data included in the school safety report confirms that New York City continues to unfairly criminalize Black and Latino youths in its schools.

“Being pushed into the criminal justice system at an early age causes trauma on the youths, has long-lasting negative impact and frequently ends in them being torn from their families and communities,” said Foster.

For the activist, a decrease in arrests and fines against students is an indication that the administration is trying to move in the right direction, but pointed out that the most common reason they are punished with a criminal summons is disorderly conduct, while non-criminal violations and misdemeanors continue to make up the majority of interactions between students and police, leading to criminal consequences against the students.

“We must end arrests and summons for non-criminal violations and misdemeanors to stop putting Black and Latino youth in front of police, prosecutors, and judges when they need to be in front of guidance counselors, social workers, mental health staff, and restorative justice coordinators,” added Foster.

The Urban Youth Collaborative, along with Make the Road New York, concluded by insisting that the city council can and should do more to keep youths in the classroom and away from the courts.

Both organizations agreed that the Trump administration is expanding policy to “criminalize and dehumanize our communities, making undocumented people and non-permanent students vulnerable to deportation. The city of New York can and should respond to these executive orders through strong actions that protect Black and Latino youths from getting lost in the criminal justice system.”

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