New NYPD Data Shows Racial Disparities in NYC School Arrests

February 22, 2012 —  Police arrested or ticketed about 14 students each day in New York City public schools from October through December, according to NYPD data released today by the New York Civil Liberties Union and its partners in the Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York. About 94 percent of students arrested were black or Latino; 75 percent were male.

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.

“This data demonstrates that the impact of heavy-handed policing in city schools falls mostly on African American students who suffer more than 60 percent of the arrests, and on male students who suffered nearly three-quarters of all arrests,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “If the Bloomberg administration is truly serious about helping young men of color succeed, then they must address these disparities and focus more attention on educating children—not arresting them.”

According to the data, which covered Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 (55 school days), there were 279 total arrests – more than five per day. Police issued 532 summonses – about nine per day. About 20 percent of youth arrested were between 11 and 14 years old.

Though the data does 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.

“This data confirms that in just three months, too many school children were treated as criminals for minor infractions and pushed into the criminal justice system—often for behavior that probably should merit a trip to the principal’s office,” Lieberman said. “We call on the mayor, the schools chancellor and the police commissioner to commission an independent audit of these incidents of arrests to assess whether these situations would be better handled by educators. And to find out what the impact has been on children who misbehaved and, as a result, were sent into the criminal justice system.”

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 second data filing since the law went into effect. It is the first to encompass months in which school was in full session.