Media Contact

NYCLU Media, 212-607-3360, media@nyclu.org

December 20, 2023

New York, NY Today, the New York Civil Liberties Union announced its letter to Chancellor of New York City Public Schools David Banks expressing concern over possible mistreatment and lack of protections for students in the New York City Public School system who have made statements, attended rallies, or organized protests in support of Palestine. 

“Students have the right to protest even when teachers, administrators, and city officials may disagree with their beliefs,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “As Mayor Adams bolsters police presence in New York City’s Public Schools, Chancellor Banks must ensure that schools are democratic havens where students can safely participate in political protest and speech — not places where they fear retaliation for engaging with critical current events.” 

Citing reports from multiple students who have faced harassment, bullying, and disciplinary sanctions due to their public support of Palestine, the letter urges Chancellor Banks to take affirmative steps so students can freely exercise their First Amendment rights without intimidation, threats, or retribution. 

This includes: 

  • Ensuring schools are following their stated disciplinary rules, regulations, and codes of conduct in a way that affirms students’ freedom of expression.
     
  • Limiting police presence, intimidation, and interactions with students participating in demonstrations at or near school.
     
  • Exercising restraint in the use of suspensions, which should be a last-resort discipline tactic, as reflected in the City’s discipline code.
     
  • Clarifying to students who wish to speak out or participate in peaceful demonstrations related to the ongoing conflict that they cannot be punished for exercising their First Amendment rights. 
     
  • Supporting educators to facilitate difficult conversations with confidence, fairness, and empathy, including providing curricula and materials to help students meaningfully participate in disagreements, debates, and discussions of current events. 

Additionally, given the NYPD’s lengthy history of targeting students of color and Mayor Adams’s recent decision to add more school safety agents to our city’s public schools, the letter cites specific concern that students who are already disproportionately surveilled by police will face even more undue harassment, threats, or force for expressing their beliefs or engaging in demonstrations.