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Letter: Do the Police Belong in Our Public Schools? (New York Times)

To the Editor:

Stationing police officers in public schools clearly causes the criminalization of routine misbehavior. Last school year, 882 students were arrested in New York City public schools. Another 1,666 children were issued tickets. These children’s “crimes” ranged from drawing graffiti to possessing marijuana. Serious felony arrests were rare.

But the introduction of our children to the criminal justice system is only one of the harms resulting from the introduction of the police into our schools; it also subjects children to unnecessarily violent and frightening confrontations with the police.

The New York Civil Liberties Union’s class-action lawsuit challenging the N.Y.P.D.’s aggressive presence in New York City schools includes numerous incidents in which children were needlessly manhandled, slammed against walls and thrown to the floor in incidents that began as minor disciplinary infractions.

Police officers in city schools are guided by policies and practices that may be suitable for fighting crime on the streets but are completely inappropriate for working with children in a learning environment. By ignoring the important differences between patrolling the streets and monitoring school hallways, a police presence can make schools less safe for students.

Ultimately, authority over school safety belongs in the hands of professional educators, who possess the skills and the training to manage children effectively.

Aexis Karteron
Senior Staff Attorney
New York Civil Liberties Union

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