This case challenges an NYPD policy that prohibits groups and individuals from engaging in peaceful First Amendment activity – including leafleting, petitioning, and picketing – on public sidewalks in front of schools in New York City. The Ya-Ya Network is a not-for-profit organization of young people who engage in advocacy on behalf of teenagers and young adults. The group was in the midst of a campaign to distribute informational flyers and forms on public sidewalks at New York City high schools about the rights of students to "opt-out" of ongoing efforts by the United States military to obtain student information from schools for military-recruitment purposes. Ya-Ya Network members had been forced from public sidewalks near three Manhattan high schools in October 2003, and the previous spring a Ya-Ya Network staff member was arrested at a high school in Brooklyn for handing out flyers for another youth group about AIDS/HIV issues.
Under the NYPD’s policy, which may have been in place for years, young people have been arrested for handing out literature, and many groups and individuals have been forced by police officers to leave, under threat of arrest, public sidewalks in front of schools. On Oct. 22, 2003, the day the NYCLU filed the case, the NYPD sent out a citywide notice suspending enforcement of the policy as applied to leafleting. After the parties completed pre-trial discovery, the city agreed to settle the case, with the Police Department adopting a new formal policy allowing the full range of First Amendment activities to take place on sidewalks in front of schools. The District Court approved the settlement on March 29, 2005.
S.D.N.Y. Index No. 03 Civ. 8351 (DLC) (direct).