There was a time when a middle schooler's worst disciplinary nightmare was the one in which a grouchy teacher walked the student down the hall for a special conversation with the principal. The kind that could end with a phone call to an annoyed parent. What it took to test a teacher's patience varied from school to school, but warnings were usually involved before the worst.
Now the worst involves handcuffs and jail cells and the proprietors of schoolhouse-to-jailhouse punishment are officers with badges and, did I mention handcuffs?
Disgusted with this state of affairs, the New York and American Civil Liberties Unions sued the NYPD today, demanding in a class action lawsuit that 5200 school safety officers be given more training, be held more accountable for substantiated cases of excessive violence and abuse of authority and that prinicpals be given authority to supervise the officers. Too often, NYCLU attorneys allege, school administrators lose control of their own buildings when overzealous officers take charge.
Five children, ages 13-18, are named plaintiffs in the suit. A 13 year-old, who identified herself by the initials "D.Y.," tearfully described an incident in which she was afraid to enter her Bronx school because strangers who'd accosted her had gone in the building. The girl texted her mother to come to school and was waited outside when she says an officer ordered her to enter immediately. "Then two more officers came and they started pulling on me too. One pushed me in the chest and then handcuffed me. When we got in the building, the same officer tripped me and I fell on my face," said D.Y. The girl spent an hour in cuffs and isolated, before her mother's presence at the school led to D.Y.'s release. She was threatened with a disorderly conduct charge, according to the court filing, that was never leveled.
In other high profile incidents in recent years, school safety officers handcuffed a five year-old who'd thrown a tantrum in class. An offcier at a different school arrested a student trying to enter when she got into an altercation with the officer. When the school principal rallied to defende the student, he was arrested too.
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly defended the school officers Wednesday as doing "a terrific job."