New York, NY —
The New York Civil Liberties Union has brought a federal class-action lawsuit against the city, accusing school safety agents of violating students' rights through excessive force.
The suit was filed on behalf of five middle- and high-school students who claim they were physically abused and wrongfully arrested at school.
"Students were handcuffed, arrested, perp walked, jailed, pushed, shoved, knocked to the ground," says Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The suit claims the city's 5,200 school safety agents, who work for the NYPD, don't get sufficient training and seeks to give principals more control over school discipline.
Belinda Hook is the mother of one of the students. She says her teenage daughter was attacked by a safety agent at Brooklyn's Maxwell High in 2008 over a disagreement at a metal detector.
"They pulled her hair, punched her in the head over and over again until eventually she had to go to the emergency room," Hook says.
The city's law department says it's reviewing the suit, but that safety officers are dedicated professionals who strive to protect children while keeping order every day.
A police spokesman also accused the Civil Liberties Union of making distortions.
Gregory Floyd of Teamsters Local 237, the president of the union representing the agents, says his members are well-trained and have helped bring down school crime.
"We do not have major incidents in our schools like we do across the country where children or someone comes in the schools and they bring guns in there and they shoot up our schools. You ask why? Because we have school safety agents there," he says.