New NYPD Data Show Black Students Disproportionately Arrested at School

May 30, 2012 —  Police arrested or ticketed more than 15 students each day in New York City public schools from January through March, according to an analysis of NYPD school safety data released today by the New York Civil Liberties Union. More than 96 percent of arrests were of black or Latino students; more than 73 percent were male. About 18 percent of arrests were of students between the ages of 11 and 14.

Among arrests – the only incidents where racial data was released – 64 percent were of black students. Black students comprise only 31 percent of the student population in city schools. During this reporting period, police were 12 times more likely to make an arrest of a black student than a white student.

“These data show how the impact of heavy-handed policing in city schools falls mostly on black students who account for 64 percent of the arrests, and on male students who represent about three-quarters of all arrests,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “If the Bloomberg administration truly wants to help young men of color succeed, then it must address these disparities and focus more resources on educating children, not arresting them.”

According to the data, which covered Jan. 1 through March 31 (58 school days), there were 327 arrests – more than five per day. Police issued 555 summonses – more than nine per day. Disorderly conduct accounted for 71 percent of all summonses.

“The number of arrests and summonses is an outrage. These numbers make us feel like the NYPD is targeting black and Latino students, and that’s just plain wrong,” said Joseph Duarte, a member of Dignity in Schools Campaign-NY and a 15-year-old student at Samuel Gompers High School in the Bronx. “We go to school to get an education, not arrested.”

Though the data do not describe the facts of the incidents, when viewed against the backdrop of the many accounts of student arrests for offenses like writing on a desk, cursing, and pushing or shoving, all indicators point to police personnel becoming involved in disciplinary infractions that should be handled by educators.

“The high percentage of disorderly conduct charges – a catchall category that could encompass all kinds of typical misbehavior – indicates that NYPD officers are getting involved in non-criminal disciplinary incidents,” NYCLU Advocacy Director Udi Ofer said. “We call on the Bloomberg administration to commission an independent audit of these incidents of arrests and summonses to assess whether these situations would be better handled by educators.”

The Student Safety Act, enacted in 2011, requires the NYPD to submit quarterly reports to the City Council on arrests, summonses and other police-student interactions in the schools. This is the third data filing since the law went into effect.

During the last two reporting periods (Oct. 1 through March 31), there were 606 arrests and 1087 summonses in the schools. About 95 percent of the arrests were of black and Latino students; more than 74 percent were of male students.

The NYCLU, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a federal class action lawsuit in 2010 challenging the NYPD’s practice of wrongfully arresting and using excessive force against children in New York City schools. That lawsuit is still pending.