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The Student Safety Act

The Law

The Student Safety Act requires quarterly reporting by the Department of Education and NYPD to the City Council on school safety and disciplinary issues, including incidents involving arrests and suspensions of students. It provides the public with raw data to study the impact of disciplinary practices and encourage the crafting of more effective policies.

The Movement

The Student Safety Act is the result of a four-year campaign led by a coalition of community-based, advocacy and legal organizations who saw a serious need for a transparency bill that would hold the NYPD and DOE accountable for their school safety and disciplinary policies. The numbers have shown that there are extreme racial disparities within the education and juvenile justice system. For instance, in the 2011-2012 school year, more than 95 percent of school-based arrests were of black and Latino students. In addition, black students accounted for about 30 percent of public school enrollment but more than 50 percent of suspensions. The NYCLU and other advocates have used this data to push for alternatives to arrests and zero tolerance policies in schools.

The Data

The Student Safety Act mandates quarterly reporting by the NYPD on arrests and summonses (tickets) issued by officers in the NYPD’s School Safety Division. These data are broken down by penal code, patrol borough, gender, race and age.

The law also requires biannual reporting by the New York City Department of Education on suspensions and expulsions. Suspensions are reported by school, discipline code infraction, age, race, gender, grade, special education status and English language proficiency.

Each quarter, the NYCLU releases these reports along with fact sheets that provide an overview the data. To access the raw data reports and NYCLU fact sheets, click here.

The History of the Student Safety Act

In 1998, the Board of Education voted to transfer school safety from educators to the NYPD. Since this initial transfer, the number of police personnel in schools has increased from 3,200 to more than 5,200 – making the School Safety Division one of the largest police forces in the country. In 2005, a string of high profile arrests of teachers, principals and students prompted advocates to take action and combine their efforts to end police abuse in schools and push for alternatives to zero tolerance suspensions.

In the spring of 2007, the New York Civil Liberties Union convened a group of community-based and advocacy organizations called the Student Safety Coalition. The main objective was to pass a transparency bill, called the Student Safety Act, which would require quarterly reporting by the Department of Education and the NYPD to the City Council on school safety issues, including incidents involving arrest, expulsion and suspension of students.

The Coalition lobbied city council members, held rallies and press conferences, and negotiated with the DOE and NYPD on the content of the bill. We worked hard to elevate the voices of affected students, their parents and concerned educators. After nearly four years of campaigning, the Student Safety Act was passed in December 2010 and signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg in January 2011.

Student Safety Coalition Members

  • Advocates for Children of New York
  • Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW 2325
  • Bronx Defenders
  • Children’s Defense Fund – New York
  • Class Size Matters
  • Correctional Association of New York
  • CUNY Graduate Center Participatory Action Research Collective
  • DRUM – Desis Rising Up and Moving
  • Make the Road New York
  • NAACP-Legal Defense and Educational Fund
  • NAACP New York State Conference
  • National Economic and Social Rights Initiative
  • National Lawyers Guild – New York City Chapter
  • New York Civil Liberties Union
  • New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
  • Parent Action Committee
  • Suspension Representation Project
  • Teachers Unite
  • Urban Youth Collaborative
  • Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice

The following organizations endorsed or passed a resolution in favor of the Student Safety Act:

  • Advancement Project
  • Citywide Council on High Schools (CCHS)
  • Coalition for Educational Justice
  • Community Asset Development Redefining Education (CADRE)
  • Community Education Council 30 (CEC 30)
  • The Justice Policy Institute
  • The National Center for Schools and Communities at Fordham University
  • National Youth Rights Association (NYRA)
  • The New York City Bar Association Committee on Civil Rights
  • The New York Law School Racial Justice Project
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Working Families Party
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