NYCLU Hails Decision by Bronx DA to Dismiss Criminal Charges Against School Officials

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
April 12, 2005 12:00 am

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NEW YORK–The New York Civil Liberties Union today praised the decision of the Bronx District Attorney to dismiss criminal charges against a high school principal and a school safety officer who were arrested for interference when they tried to stop the arrest of a 16-year-old student.

“The NYCLU joins parents and students from Bronx Guild to call on the Department of Education not to waste another minute and to reinstate the school principal and aide to their positions in the school,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “They have already been out of school for too long.”

Bronx Guild High School Principal Michael Soguero and aide James Burgos were removed from school on February 6 after a New York police officer charged the men with attempting to interfere in the arrest of a female student on February 3. The student allegedly shouted an obscenity at the officer in the hallway before entering the classroom. Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson today asked the state Supreme Court to dismiss the charges against the school officials and referred the matter to the Education Department.

Bronx Guild is on the campus of Adlai Stevenson High School, where police have been sent to ensure safety under New York’s “Operation Impact” program.

“The dismissals are important, but do not resolve the ongoing problem that police in schools are inadequately — and possibly improperly — trained about their role,” said Lieberman. “Police guidelines do not properly convey that when it comes to school discipline, the principal is in charge. Police officers do not have authority to enforce school rules or to arrest students for non-criminal infractions.”

In a letter to school officials and the New York Police Department last month, the NYCLU raised concerns about the lack of adequate guidelines, but, said Lieberman, “the silence has been deafening.”

“Unless the Department of Education and the NYPD make serious changes in policing practices and policies in the schools, there will be more and more incidents like the travesty at Bronx Guild,” added Lieberman. “And instead of making schools safer, the police will be undermining education.”

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