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Letter: Policing the Schools (New York Times)

To the editor:

Your Jan. 5 editorial “The Principal’s Office First” raises grave concerns about heavy-handed policing in public schools nationwide. This problem is particularly acute in New York City, where excessive policing creates a hostile atmosphere and routinely criminalizes students, particularly children of color and those with special needs.

More than 5,200 inadequately trained and supervised police personnel patrol the city’s schools, making the New York New YorkPolice Department’s school division larger than all but four police departments in the country.

Every day, more than 100,000 students must submit to metal detectors, bag searches and sometimes even patdowns to go to school. The media frequently report problems: the 5-year-old handcuffed for throwing a tantrum; the 16-year-old arrested and beaten in a dispute about a cellphone; the principal arrested for trying to protect a student from abuse. But how many more incidents go unreported?

The Student Safety Act would provide transparency and accountability to police activity in schools. It would require the N.Y.P.D. and the Department of Education to report on school suspensions, expulsions, arrests and student-police altercations. Though co-sponsored by a majority of the City Council, the Council speaker and Peter F. Vallone Jr., the Public Safety Committee chairman, have yet to schedule a hearing or put it to a vote.

Meanwhile, unchecked policing pushes vulnerable students from classrooms to jail.

Donna Lieberman
Melissa Kissoon

The writers are, respectively, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and youth representative for the Urban Youth Collaborative.

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