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Arrest Of 13-Year-Old For Writing On Desk Should Be Wake-Up Call For City, NYCLU Says

The New York Civil Liberties Union today condemned the treatment of a 13-year-old girl who was arrested after she wrote the word “okay” on her school desk, saying the incident sheds light on the fatal flaws in New York City’s use of law enforcement to impose discipline in classrooms.

Chelsea Fraser was handcuffed and placed under arrest in front of her classmates at the Dyker Heights Intermediate School on March 30th, according to news reports. Police demanded that Fraser empty her pockets and take off her belt before handcuffing her and leading her out of the school and into the back of a police car. Fraser faces charges of criminal mischief and writing graffiti.

“No child should be arrested for writing on her desk,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “But this child’s arrest is the logical and predictable result of school discipline policies that treat our children like suspects and address minor infractions of school rules by charging children with crimes. The Mayor, the police commissioner and the Chancellor set the stage for this event and others like it by turning over school discipline to the New York Police Department. It’s time for New Yorkers to demand a major overhaul of school discipline practices and the restoration of the nurturing educational environment our children need in order to learn and thrive.”

Fraser’s mother, Diana Silva, reports that she was denied access to her daughter for three hours as she was held in handcuffs at the precinct.

“I’m appalled,” Silva told reporters. “…[H]ere we have rapists, murderers, and you’re taking a 13-year-old kid? Wasting valuable manpower to arrest a child who wrote on a desk?”

A report released by the NYCLU and ACLU last month, Criminalized in the Classroom: The Overpolicing of New York City Schools, shows that a massive and aggressive police presence has transformed New York City’s public school classrooms into hostile and dysfunctional environments that damage students and disempower educators. The report The report and other information about the problem are available on the NYCLU’s website at

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