Teen Activist Project
TAP is an exciting youth program that engages New York City teens as organizers and peer educators on civil rights and civil liberties.
Criminalizing the Classroom
In 1998, the control of school safety was transferred to the NYPD. There are now more police personnel in NYC schools than guidance counselors and social workers. Members of the New York Civil Liberties Union's Teen Activist Project (TAP) created this photo essay to document the impact of zero tolerance policies, metal detectors and police in NYC schools.
This massive presence makes the NYPD's school safety division larger than all but five of the nation's police forces.
The NYPD is watching
The NYPD's school safety division is responsible for monitoring school entrances, exits and hallways; operating ID scanners, cameras and metal detectors.
Police personnel receive little to no training on adolescent development and use substantially the same tactics as police on the street.
Police in schools have the power to detain, interrogate, frisk, search, arrest, and handcuff students.
Guilty until Proven Innocent
Approximately 100,000 NYC students pass through permanent metal detectors to enter their school building each day. 82% of students attending metal detector schools are black or Latino.
School or Airport?
“I've had metal detectors in my school since I was 11. In a way it robbed me of my innocence.”
Students wait in line, taking off their belts and jewelry before entering school. Some students told us they have stopped wearing belts to avoid the hassle of undressing in line.
The Cost of Education
The city spent an average of $9,602 on each student at a school with permanent metal detectors, compared to the citywide average of $11,282 per student.
High schools with permanent metal detectors issued 48 percent more suspensions than schools without metal detectors. In some schools, bringing a phone, pair of tweezers or metal fork to school could lead to a suspension.
School Climate: Having police in schools creates a hostile learning environment and often turns adolescent misbehavior into criminal acts.
Do You Know Where Your Child's Phone Is?: Many students pay to leave their phones at a corner store or van before school starts. Paying $1 a day as a way to avoid problems at school.
12 year-old Alexa Gonzalez was arrested after she wrote on her desk with an erasable marker. “I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here. 2/1/10.”
A Place of Learning
Police in schools, zero tolerance policies, and metal detectors influence the course of success for students, but these practices do not impact all students equally.
The NYCLU's youth program began as the Teen Health Initiative in 1997, founded with the mission of removing barriers that prevent young people from accessing critical health services and information. Now, over 20 years later, TAP carries on the mission of the Teen Health Initiative and works on a broader range of NYCLU Advocacy issues.
Each year, TAP consists of a core group of around 25 New York City high school students who meet weekly to learn about civil liberties and legal issues, reproductive justice, community organizing and activism. Over the years, the program has expanded by reaching an additional 100 students each year that take part as activists in their communities. All of these students work together as peer educators to make sure the youth of New York know their rights, create campaigns on issues the NYCLU is working on, and organize protests, rallies and marches across the city. TAP is a great opportunity for young people interested in law, health care, social justice and community organizing. Organizer Jake Martinez coordinates the Teen Activist Project and helps NYCLU staff and TAP members work together on advocacy issues and campaigns.
We work on advocacy issues, such as:
- Freedom of Speech and Religion
- Racial Justice
- Immigrants' Rights
- Students' Rights
- Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline
- The Rights of LGBTQ Youth
We work on reproductive rights issues, such as: