Agency: African-American, Special Ed Students Are Suspended, Arrested 'Disproportionately'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A New York Civil Liberties Union study released Tuesday said African-American and low-income youth — particularly those with special needs — are arrested in city public schools on a disproportionate basis.

As 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reported, NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman called the trend alarming – what she described as the use of police street tactics in city schools, forcing the most vulnerable students out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system.

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Lieberman said she sees a curious coincidence.

“What we have learned is that the pattern of children who are most frequently suspended from school is similar to the areas where stop-and-frisk activity is high,” in neighborhoods such as Harlem; East New York and Brownsville, Brooklyn; Jamaica, Queens; and Mott Haven in the Bronx, Lieberman said.

The report, titled “A, B, C, D, STPP: How School Discipline Feeds the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” complains that the policies of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration have increased the number of NYPD personnel and metal detectors, as well as zero tolerance policies, in schools.

The NYCLU said the suspension rate in New York City public schools has more than doubled over the last decade, from 29,000 in 2011 to nearly 70,000 in 2011. While the suspension rate has declined since, disparities remain, with black students having served 50 percent of all suspensions in the 2010-2011 school year despite making up only 29 percent of the total public school student population.

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The report also found special education students are suspended at twice the rate of general education students. Further, black students with special needs serve 14 percent of overall suspensions despite representing only 6 percent of the public school population, the report said.

Further, the report noted that more than 60 percent of all arrest in city schools involve black youth. An arrested student is twice as likely to drop out of school, the NYCLU said.

The report provided some policy suggestions for the city Department of Education and the next mayor.

Among other suggestions, the organization advised eliminating zero tolerance policies that place trivial and serious offenses on the same level, eliminating “the criminalization of school discipline” where school safety officers get involved, and ensure proper training for police officers who work in schools.

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