Black and Latino students made up more than 96 percent of the arrests by NYPD School Safety officers during the 2011-2012 school year, according to recent data released by the NYPD. But the New York Civil Liberties Union believes the numbers betray a "heavy-handed" approach to discipline, particularly in minority neighborhoods.
Over the course of the most recent school year, 882 arrests were made and 1,666 summonses were issued. Sixty three percent of the arrests involved black students.
Close to half the summonses were issued in the Bronx, although the borough accounts for just 21 percent of the city's middle and high school students.
"What we're seeing is that more kids are getting arrested for minor misbehavior that a generation ago would never have resulted in police involvement," said Udi Ofer, the New York Civil Liberties Union's advocacy director. He says this includes offenses such as writing on desks.
According to the NYCLU, police personnel outnumber guidance counselors and social workers at city schools. Ofer said the public spectacle of being handcuffed or taking a day off to go to court is more likely to prompt a downward spiral, rather than ending the student’s misbehavior.
"Getting arrested in school is one of the greatest indicators of dropout," he said.
The city Department of Education in a statement said crime in schools has gone down. "In the last 10 years, we’ve reduced major crimes committed in schools by 49 percent and violent crime by 45 percent, while still maintaining one of the lowest rates of school-based arrests for any major district in the country. School safety is important for our students’ success and it’s our goal to preserve a safe learning environment."