First Full Year of NYPD Data Shows Black Students Disproportionately Arrested at School

August 14, 2012 —  NYPD School Safety Division personnel arrested or ticketed more than 11 students each day in New York City public schools during the 2011-12 school year, according to an analysis of NYPD school safety data released today by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Dignity in Schools Campaign-NY. For the year, more than 95 percent of arrests were of black or Latino students; 74 percent were of males; and 1-in-5 was of students between the ages of 11 and 14.

"We’ve now collected a year’s worth of data demonstrating how the impact of heavy-handed policing in city schools falls squarely on the shoulders of black students and young men, who are being subjected to a disproportionate number of arrests at school," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. "If the Bloomberg administration is serious about helping young men of color succeed, then it must address these disparities and focus more resources on educating children, not arresting them."

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. Over the past four reporting periods, which represents 216 high school days and 209 middle school days (including summer school), the NYPD’s School Safety Division made 882 arrests, more than four per day, and issued 1,666 summonses, more than seven per day. Sixty-three percent of arrests were of black students. Disorderly conduct charges, a catchall category that can encompass all kinds of typical misbehavior, accounted for 64 percent of all summonses issued over the year, which indicates that NYPD officers are getting involved in non-criminal disciplinary incidents in schools.

A disproportionate number of summonses were issued in the Bronx. Though it accounts for 21 percent of the city’s middle school and high school enrollment, close to 48 percent of summonses were issued in the Bronx.

"As a parent from the South Bronx, I am very concerned. The Bronx has a high rate of arrests and summonses, and citywide many kids at the middle school level – between the ages of 11 to 14 – are being affected," Ana Maria Garcia, parent leader with the Dignity in Schools Campaign NY, said. "We need to look for solutions, and really, they are clear. Most of our kids don’t have arts, sports, or emotional supports in their schools. We should have positive discipline programs, more training for school safety officers, more guidance counselors and social workers, and have parent participation in making our schools safe."

There are more than 5,100 police personnel in our schools, compared to approximately 3,000 guidance counselors and 1,500 social workers.

This week, the NYPD submitted to the City Council its fourth report, which covered 55 school days from April through June. Over that period, school safety officers – NYPD personnel assigned to the schools – made 213 arrests and issued 397 summonses. More than 96 percent of the arrests were of black or Latino students. More than 71 percent were of males. Disorderly conduct charges accounted for 60 percent of the summonses issued.

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 desks and horseplay, all indicators point to police personnel becoming involved in disciplinary infractions that should be handled by educators.

Moreover, these statistics only include NYPD personnel assigned to school buildings. Arrests and summonses by precinct officers, who are often called in by school safety officers, are not reflected in the quarterly reports, indicating that the data reported by the NYPD represents only a portion of the arrests and summonses in schools. It is unclear how many of the arrests and summonses by the School Safety Division of the NYPD were of non-students.

"We can no longer ignore the impact that police practices have on perpetuating the achievement gap in our city’s schools," NYCLU Advocacy Director Udi Ofer said. "We know that the Bloomberg administration cares deeply about closing the achievement gap. Yet, it’s about time that the administration face the facts and recognize that when a student gets ticketed or arrested in school for minor misbehavior, the student’s ability to succeed academically is greatly weakened. If we’re going to succeed in closing the achievement gap, then we need to invest more resources in proven alternatives to policing to handle student disciplinary problems."

Other school systems in the country have limited the practice of arresting students for minor misconduct like disorderly conduct and banned outright the arrest of elementary-aged students for misdemeanors. In Clayton County, Georgia, these limitations on school police, along with supports for alternative programs, have resulted in an 87 percent decrease in fights and a 20 percent increase in graduation rates since 2004. In Birmingham, Alabama, a similar agreement has reduced referrals of students to juvenile court by 50 percent.

The NYCLU, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney LLP, 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 pending.