Landmark New Agreement Reached between NYPD and DOE on Police Officers’ Role in Schools

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
June 20, 2019 2:00 pm

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NEW YORK- After decades without changes, the NYPD and the NYC Department of Education released an updated memorandum of understanding, which dictates the police department’s authority over school safety officers across the city. The new agreement limits the role of police in schools and represents an important shift from what used to be a zero-tolerance approach of school discipline to a student-centered school environment that supports all children.

The new agreement:

  • Identifies categories of student misbehavior where officers should not make arrests such as graffiti or disorderly conduct
  • Creates restorative justice programs in every high school and social-emotional learning initiatives in every elementary school
  • Caps school suspensions at 20 days, and
  • Invests in additional support staff including dozens of new school social workers

“Police presence in schools and a zero-tolerance disciplinary approach make students feel like criminals in their own classrooms,” said Johanna Miller, director of the Education Policy Center. “Today’s announcement is about treating kids like kids, allowing them to recover from mistakes, and teaching them the tools to manage emotions and behavior. By adopting these recommendations from the Leadership Team, the city is taking real a step toward ending the School to Prison Pipeline.”

In the 2017-2018 school year, Black and Latino students represented 67 percent of the student body, but 88 percent of arrests and 92 percent of summonses in schools and were much more likely to be handcuffed for misbehaving than their white peers.

The NYCLU participated in a task force that was convened by Mayor de Blasio to address the racial disparities in school discipline and suspension rates. The task force made numerous recommendations to the MOU that were ultimately adopted in the final version released today.

“The new agreement represents a major shift in school discipline practices that should curtail the harmful impacts of the School to Prison Pipeline and make school a safe and supportive place to learn, particularly for students of color, said Donna Lieberman, executive director at the NYCLU. “For too long, New York City public school students have had to face an overly punitive disciplinary system that treats them as criminals, even as elementary school students.”

Despite these major changes, New York students, particularly those of color still face an array of challenges at school. The NYCLU will continue to work toward a future where every student attends a school free of police, metal detectors, or surveillance.

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