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Letter: ‘Zero Tolerance’ in Schools (New York Times)

To the Editor:

“The Trouble With ‘Zero Tolerance’ ” (editorial, Nov. 11):

Zero tolerance policies plague school districts nationwide, and, unfortunately, New York City is no exception.

De facto zero tolerance causes wrongful arrests, searches and suspensions of students in too many of the city’s neediest schools.

More than 5,200 police personnel patrol the city’s schools, making it the nation’s fifth-largest police force — larger than the forces of Washington and Boston. Police personnel interact with students daily but lack adequate training and supervision to work in schools.

In too many schools, the New York Police Department has usurped educators’ authority to enforce discipline. The consequences are grave: children as young as 5 have been handcuffed for throwing tantrums, and teenagers have been arrested for writing on desks.

The New York City Council recently held a hearing on the Student Safety Act, legislation that would provide the public basic data about school discipline, including who’s been arrested in school and why.

We hope that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who campaigned on his data-driven education policies, will support this important civil rights legislation.

Donna Lieberman
Udi Ofer

The writers are, respectively, executive director and advocacy director, New York Civil Liberties Union.

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