The NYCLU is a public-interest law firm that principally addresses issues involving challenges to a government law, policy or practice affecting the constitutional rights – that is, the civil liberties and civil rights – of a significant number of people arising in New York State. Find out how to get help with such an issue.
In 1998, the control of school safety was transferred to the NYPD. There are now more police personnel in NYC schools than guidance counselors and social workers.
Members of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Teen Activist Project (TAP) created this photo essay to document the impact of zero tolerance policies, metal detectors and police in NYC schools.
Criminalizing the Classroom There are approximately 5,200 police personnel assigned to NYC schools.
Welcome Wagon This massive presence makes the NYPD’s school safety division larger than all but five of the nation’s police forces.
The NYPD is watching The NYPD’s school safety division is responsible for monitoring school entrances, exits and hallways; operating ID scanners, cameras and metal detectors.
Cop Watch Police personnel receive little to no training on adolescent development and use substantially the same tactics as police on the street.
Dark Cloud Police in schools have the power to detain, interrogate, frisk, search, arrest, and handcuff students.
Good Morning “Having cops around makes you feel like more of a criminal than a student”
Guilty until Proven Innocent Approximately 100,000 NYC students pass through permanent metal detectors to enter their school building each day. 82% of students attending metal detector schools are black or Latino.
School or Airport? “I’ve had metal detectors in my school since I was 11. In a way it robbed me of my innocence.”
Late Pass Students wait in line, taking off their belts and jewelry before entering school. Some students told us they have stopped wearing belts to avoid the hassle of undressing in line.
The Cost of Education The city spent an average of $9,602 on each student at a school with permanent metal detectors, compared to the citywide average of $11,282 per student.
Zero Tolerance High schools with permanent metal detectors issued 48 percent more suspensions than schools without metal detectors. In some schools, bringing a phone, pair of tweezers or metal fork to school could lead to a suspension.
School Climate: Having police in schools creates a hostile learning environment and often turns adolescent misbehavior into criminal acts.
Do You Know Where Your Child’s Phone Is?: Many students pay to leave their phones at a corner store or van before school starts. Paying $1 a day as a way to avoid problems at school.
An Example 12 year-old Alexa Gonzalez was arrested after she wrote on her desk with an erasable marker. “I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here. 2/1/10.”
A Place of Learning Police in schools, zero tolerance policies, and metal detectors influence the course of success for students, but these practices do not impact all students equally.
The NYCLU’s youth program began as the Teen Health Initiative in 1997, founded with the mission of removing barriers that prevent young people from accessing critical health services and information. Today, TAP carries on the mission of the Teen Health Initiative and works on the wide range of NYCLU advocacy issues.
TAP is a group of around 20 New York City high school students who meet weekly to learn about civil liberties and legal issues, reproductive justice, public speaking and activism. We work as peer educators to make sure the youth of New York know their rights, and each year we create a campaign on an additional issue the NYCLU works on. TAP is a great opportunity for young people interested in law, health care, social justice and community organizing.
Organizer Jake Martinez coordinates the Teen Activist Project and helps NYCLU staff and TAP members work together on advocacy issues and campaigns.