NYCLU Applauds Central Islip School Board for Rejecting Sex-Specific Policy for Homecoming Queen and King Nominees

Central Islip Homecoming King (Faith, left) and Queen (Valerie, right)
Central Islip Homecoming King (Faith, left) and Queen (Valerie, right)

February 11, 2014 — The Central Islip School Board last night voted down a proposal to require nominees for Homecoming King to be male and Homecoming Queen to be female. The Suffolk County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union applauded its decision.

The proposal came after a local church group filed a petition to the school board after a lesbian student at Central Islip High School, Faith Shepherd, ran for and won the title for Homecoming King as a statement for gender equality and to support transgender individuals.

Upon hearing about the church's plan to petition the board, the NYCLU sent a letter to the Central Islip School Board urging it to reject the discriminatory policy as a clear violation of state and federal law.

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Agreement between Suffolk Police and DOJ Should Enhance Public Safety

December 3, 2013 — A settlement announced late today between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Suffolk County Police Department should enhance public safety by improving relations between the Police Department and immigrant residents, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The SCPD is subject to the settlement because of a federal investigation concerning discriminatory policing following the murder of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue. Lucero was stabbed to death in November 2008 while being attacked by a group of local teenagers who were out assaulting Latino immigrants for sport.

“Years of discriminatory county policies bred hostility toward immigrants that manifested itself in the senseless murder of Mr. Lucero,” said Amol Sinha, director of the NYCLU’s Suffolk County Chapter. “We are optimistic this settlement will put our community on a new path where everyone feels safe, secure, valued and respected, regardless of race or ethnicity.”

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Federal Judge Greenlights Class-Action Lawsuit Challenging Deplorable Conditions at Suffolk County Jails

March 20, 2013 — A federal judge has ruled that allegations of constitutional violations in a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP challenging deplorable and inhumane conditions in Suffolk County’s two jails were sufficiently serious to state claims for violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The judge also ruled that, because the alleged constitutional violations affect all current and future detainees of the Suffolk County’s jails, the case should move forward as a certified class action.

“This decision recognizes our allegations that the inhumane conditions at the jails are the uniform product of decades of neglect and indifference by county officials that have harmed and continue to harm thousands of people in Suffolk County, many of whom have not yet been convicted of any crime and are simply awaiting their day in court,” said Amol Sinha, director of the NYCLU’s Suffolk County Chapter. “For too long, county officials have been content to force people to live in degrading conditions that are unfit for a civilized society. It’s time for them to meet their moral and constitutional obligations to provide humane conditions at the jails.”

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NYCLU Condemns Rushed, Ill-Conceived, Ineffective Changes to Suffolk County Sex Offender Law

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February 5, 2013 — The New York Civil Liberties Union today condemned the Suffolk County Legislature's rushed approval of a major overhaul to the county’s sex offender management plan that will not enhance public safety and raises serious concerns about basic constitutional rights. Chapter director Amol Sinha said:

'In rushing to approve this legislation by bypassing the normal democratic process, the County Legislature has sacrificed smart, evidence-based policy making for an ill-conceived plan that does little, if anything, to promote public safety, raises serious constitutional concerns and diverts scarce public resources from more effective measures to prevent sexual violence.

"Laws that aim to promote public safety must be the product of rigorous public discussion and grounded in practices that evidence shows will actually protect communities from future crimes. It simply makes no sense to hastily pass a law that has not been sufficiently considered or evaluated in terms of its effectiveness or its legality."
 

Court Dismisses Suffolk County Banishment Proposal Targeting 37 Black Men

April 24, 2012 — The New York Civil Liberties Union today applauded a State Supreme Court judge’s order dismissing an unconstitutional proposal that sought to curb gang activity by banishing certain residents from gathering in public areas in Wyandanch.

Judge Jeffrey A. Spinner dismissed the banishment proposal “with prejudice,” meaning the county cannot attempt in the future to obtain an injunction against these same individuals. The county, which under a new administration had sought to withdraw the proposal, consented to the judge’s order, which is dated April 19.

“This sends a strong signal to any New York police department to think twice before pursuing this kind of banishment strategy,” said NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Corey Stoughton. “It’s been tried twice now in New York and it has failed in court on both occasions. There are smarter ways to fight crime, and we’re gratified that the new county administration appears to recognize that.”

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Annual Meeting Features First Amendment Discussion

NYCLU Legal Director Art Eisenberg spoke about the First Amendment.
NYCLU Legal Director Art Eisenberg spoke about the First Amendment.

By Peter Gollon

The Suffolk County Chapter held its annual membership meeting on Saturday, March 3. This year’s meeting location, Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus in Selden, proved a huge success.

More people attended than we had expected, and people said the new location was more convenient.

Chapter Director Amol Sinha spoke about some NYCLU activities in Suffolk, including challenging deplorable conditions in the county jails, where the majority of inmates have not been convicted of a crime and are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford bail.

Sinha also described his work with the local immigrant community, whose members often fear that any interaction with the police – even reporting on a crime – might lead to their arrest and detention on immigration charges.

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Lawsuit Defends Right to Film Police in Suffolk County

April 11, 2012 — The New York Civil Liberties Union, the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) today filed a federal civil rights lawsuit challenging Suffolk County’s policy and practice of obstructing the First Amendment right of the press and the public to record and gather news about police activity in public places.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of professional video journalist Philip Datz, who was unlawfully arrested and detained by Suffolk County police in July 2011 while filming police activity on a public street in Bohemia.

"In our society, people have a clear right to document police activity in public places," said Amol Sinha, director of the NYCLU’s Suffolk County Chapter. "This right is especially important when it comes to documenting police interactions with community members. We hope this lawsuit strengthens the First Amendment right of journalists to keep the community informed of police activity in public."

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Lawsuit Challenges Appalling Conditions at Suffolk County Jails

Suffolk County resident Jason Porter, 33, is a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit challenging conditions in the jails.
Suffolk County resident Jason Porter, 33, is a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit challenging conditions in the jails.

April 5, 2012 — People housed at Suffolk County Correctional Facilities -- whether or not they have been convicted of a crime -- are forced to live amidst overflowing sewage, chronic overcrowding, rodent and insect infestations, pervasive mold and rust, and other deplorable and dehumanizing conditions, according to a federal class action lawsuit filed today by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP.

“Nobody should be forced to live in the sickening conditions that exist in the Suffolk County jails,” said Amol Sinha, director of the NYCLU’s Suffolk County Chapter.

“Raw sewage bubbles from floor drains, rodents and roaches infest the kitchens, black mold covers the showers – it shocks the conscience. That county officials have allowed such horrendous conditions to persist for years is simply shameful.”

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Following the DREAM: Practical Suggestions for Working with Immigrant Students

On October 27 more than 30 educators from across Long Island packed the Christ Church of Oyster Bay to discuss immigrants’ rights in the classroom.

Teachers, administrators and social workers shared their concerns and suggestions about working with immigrant students. The educators received guidance on how to teach students about immigrants’ rights and how to encourage tolerance toward immigrants.

Liz Marcuci and Rachel Baskin from the American Immigration Lawyers Association gave a rundown on basic immigration law and the difficulty of immigrating to the United States. Nassau Chapter Director Samantha Fredrickson addressed the Dignity Act, a new anti-bullying law, and the constitutional rights of immigrants. Maria Contreras, an immigrants’ rights advocate, guided teachers in how to work with immigrant students during the transition from high school to college.

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Advocating for LGBT Immigrants

Keynote speaker Victoria Neilson at NYCLU Nassau and Suffolk County chapters LGBT immigrants event.
Keynote speaker Victoria Neilson.

On Thursday, October 6, 2011, the Nassau and Suffolk County chapters co-sponsored The Other Side of the Rainbow, a public education event geared toward advocating for the rights of LGBT immigrants.

The workshop took place at Nassau Community College and was the latest event in our year-long immigrants’ rights campaign which is being funded by a grant from the Hagedorn Foundation.

At the event, advocates learned about the implications of immigration laws that tear apart bi-national same-sex couples and received guidance on how to incorporate immigrants’ rights work into their LGBT advocacy.

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Civil Liberties: Ten Years After 9/11

The Nassau County and Suffolk County chapters participated in a well-attended event on Thursday, Sept. 8 at Touro Law School that honored those who died on 9/11 and assessed the impact of the terrorist attacks on civil liberties over the past decade.

Sharing stories were six speakers, including Suffolk Chapter Director Amol Sinha; Habeeb Ahmed of the Islamic Center of Long Island; Bob Nuxoll of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Long Island Chapter; Arshad Majid, civil rights attorney and adjunct professor at Touro Law; and Nancy Dwyer of Pax Christi Long Island.

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NYCLU Study Examines Rise of Anti-Mosque Activities in New York State

August 24, 2011 — The New York Civil Liberties Union today released a briefing paper examining the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment and anti-mosque activities throughout New York State.

The briefing paper, Religious Freedom Under Attack: the Rise of Anti-Mosque Activities in New York State, explores the legal and cultural background against which mosque controversies have unfolded across the state over the past year. It calls on public officials to promote intercultural understanding of Muslim New Yorkers while respecting the First Amendment rights of those who oppose mosque projects.

The paper provides nine examples of incidents across the state in which Muslim communities were targeted for their beliefs and practices by their neighbors and/or local governments. It chronicles the fierce opposition to the proposed Park51 Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, and details heated opposition to mosques and proposed mosque projects in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; Midland beach, Staten Island; and three communities in Long Island. It also covers three incidents in upstate New York in which mosques were subjected to harassment and attacks.

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NYCLU: Suffolk County PD Must Train Officers to Respect People’s Right to Videotape in Public

August 9, 2011 — Following the dismissal of charges today against a news cameraman who was unlawfully arrested after filming the aftermath of a car chase in Bohemia last month, the New York Civil Liberties Union is calling on the Suffolk County Police Department to ensure that its officers understand and respect people’s constitutional right to videotape police interactions with civilians in public spaces.

The NYCLU represented the cameraman, Phil Datz, who was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of governmental administration during the July 29 incident.

"We’re gratified that the district attorney’s office recognized that this was an unlawful arrest and quickly dropped the charges," said Amol Sinha, director of the NYCLU’s Suffolk County Chapter. "This bogus arrest should serve as an urgent call to action that the Police Department take tangible and meaningful steps to ensure all residents are afforded the rights of the Constitution."

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NYCLU Applauds Suffolk County Lawmakers for Rejecting Prepaid Cell Phone Registry

June 22, 2011 — The New York Civil Liberties Union today applauded the Suffolk County Legislature for rejecting a bill that would have mandated the creation and maintenance of a prepaid cell phone registry in the county.

The Legislature rejected the bill, I.R. 1266, Tuesday evening by a bipartisan vote of 7 to 11. The NYCLU’s Suffolk County Chapter had organized a coalition of more than 30 civil rights, immigrants’ rights, labor, social justice, community and interfaith organizations in opposition to the bill.

“By rejecting this deeply flawed proposal, county legislators showed common sense and respect for residents’ privacy rights,” said Amol Sinha, director of the NYCLU’s Suffolk County Chapter. “We all want safe communities, but we shouldn’t sacrifice personal liberty for poorly conceived legislation that is far more likely to incriminate the innocent than capture criminals.”

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New Coalition Takes on Congressman King

NYCLU supporter and member Dr. Joe Volker.
NYCLU supporter and member Dr. Joe Volker.

The Nassau County and Suffolk County chapters on Saturday, May 21 joined their partners in the Long Island Neighbors for American Values coalition to rally against Rep. Peter King's anti-Muslim hearings.

About 60 supporters rallied in front of King's Massapequa Park office for religious freedom and against singling out Muslims for suspicion. They carried signs that read: "Let Freedom Ring, Stop the Hearings King!" and "Stop the Hearings, Stop the Hate."

In March, King made headlines when he called hearings in the House of Representatives on the so-called "radicalization" of the Muslim American community.

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Annual Awards Luncheon Honors Civil Rights Activists

Board member Charlotte Koons presents an award to Suffolk Peace Network organizer Karen SackettBoard member Charlotte Koons presents an award to Suffolk Peace Network organizer Karen Sackett.

On April 2, 2011, the Suffolk County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union held its annual awards luncheon at Lombardi's on the Sound in Port Jefferson, NY, where over 150 guests celebrated the contributions of six wonderful community leaders.

Honorees included former Suffolk NYCLU board member Rita Brett Schneider, LGBT activist Matthew Bessell, Long Island Latino Teachers' Association Director Dafny Irizarry, Suffolk Peace Network organizer Karen Sackett, long-time Suffolk NYCLU intern Vincent Diaz, and PhD candidate and activist Kevin Young.

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NYCLU: Central Islip School District Wrong to Suspend Students Following Budget Protest

The Central Islip School District should not have suspended 100 middle school students this month for exercising their constitutional rights by participating in a mass protest against proposed budget cuts during class time, according to a letter the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Suffolk County Chapter sent today to Superintendent Craig Carr.

On April 1, 2011, more than 100 seventh and eighth graders at Ralph J. Reed Middle School received one-day suspensions after they had walked out of their classes to protest planned budget cuts that could result in layoffs for school district teachers. The students marched about a mile from the school to the district offices, where they picketed with hand-made signs.

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Public Forum Kicks Off Immigrants' Rights Campaign

Erin Mansfield, NYCLU community organizer for Long Island (middle), with Activist Task Force members April Winecke and Omar Henriquez at the NYCLU's Immigrants' Rights Activist Task Force forum in Manhasset on March 28, 2011.
Erin Mansfield, NYCLU community organizer for Long Island (middle), with Activist Task Force members April Winecke and Omar Henriquez.

March 31, 2011 -- On Monday night in Manhasset, the Nassau and Suffolk County chapters of the NYCLU kicked off a Long-Island-wide immigrants' rights campaign with a public forum that encouraged the community to break myths about immigrants. The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock's Social Justice Committee co-sponsored the event.

From Nassau to the North Fork: Immigrants' Rights on 21st Century Long Island was led by the co-chapter Immigrants' Rights Activist Task Force, a group of volunteers of all ages that creates curriculum and events to engage the public in advocacy and educate the community about the constitutional rights of immigrants.

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