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City To Pay $60,000 To Settle Lawsuit By Arrested Bronx Teachers

The New York Civil Liberties Union and co-counsel Morrison & Foerster LLP today announced the settlement of a lawsuit filed last year on behalf of two high school teachers who were arrested, handcuffed, and verbally abused by the New York Police Department without cause after they questioned police officers handcuffing students who had been involved in a fight.

The NYCLU filed the lawsuit in an attempt to vindicate the constitutional rights of the teachers, Quinn Kronen and Cara Wolfson-Kronen, who were wrongfully arrested. The NYCLU continues to urge the NYPD and the City Department of Education to develop adequate protocols to limit the role of police officers in the schools and to provide training for police officers working in the special environment of the schools.

“We hope that this settlement will motivate New York City to solve the serious policing problems that affect everyone working or studying in our public school system,” Quinn Kronen said. “NYPD personnel must work as allies to teachers and school officials in promoting productive learning environments — both to prevent incidents like this from happening again and to ensure that the City’s students can receive the education they deserve.”

NYPD officers arrested Mr. Kronen and Ms. Wolfson-Kronen at the New School for Arts and Sciences, where they teach, in March 2005. Ms. Wolfson-Kronen, a social studies teacher, had called 911 for medical assistance for a student who had been injured during a fight in a school bathroom. The police arrived in Mr. Kronen’s classroom after school personnel had already broken up the fight and separated the students. Mr. Kronen, an English teacher, questioned the police decision to handcuff some of the students who had been fighting.

In response, police officers entered the school building and cursed at teachers, yelling that the students were “crazy” and that the teachers should “get rid of” them. Mr. Kronen responded that teachers could not simply get rid of students; officers ordered him to be quiet. When Ms. Wolfson-Kronen objected, they handcuffed and arrested her, made her wait handcuffed in the hall in front of her students, and then forced her to wait outside the building, where the temperature was subfreezing. The police then arrested Mr. Kronen as well, and both teachers were held at the 41st precinct in the Bronx for nearly two hours before being released with summonses for disorderly conduct. The charges against both teachers were dismissed at arraignment for facial insufficiency. The NYCLU’s action was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“Teachers must be able to expect that if they call the police onto their campuses they will be treated lawfully and with respect,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “Our hope is that New York City will work to avoid future lawsuits by implementing protocols that make it clear that unless there is an immediate safety threat, police personnel must defer to educators’ judgments about how to handle disciplinary matters in their schools.”

A report released this spring by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union, Criminalizing the Classroom: The Over-Policing of New York City Schools, documents in detail the excesses of the policing operation in New York City’s public schools and the penalties that students have paid as a result of those operations. The report also offers realistic recommendations for addressing the system’s problems. The NYCLU today pledged to continue working with educators, students, families, community members, and city officials to achieve these urgently needed reforms.

Click here to read the settlement (requires the free Adobe Reader).

Click here to read the complaint in the case (requires the free Adobe Reader).

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