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Student arrests drop 41 percent in boro schools

TimesLedger Newspapers

The number of students arrested in Queens public schools during the last three months of 2012 dropped 41 percent, although minority students in the southern part of the borough continued to account for the majority of the arrests, city Police Department records showed.

From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, police arrested 24 students in Queens schools, according to NYPD data provided to the City Council under the Student Safety Act. During that same time period in 2011 — the first year for which the department was required to report the data — police arrested 41 students.

Most of the charges were for misdemeanor assaults and resisting arrest, though three students were charged with bringing a firearm to school.

Arrests were down 49 percent citywide, but part of that decrease could be attributable to fewer school days as a result of Superstorm Sandy. And while groups critical of the practice of having NYPD officers patrolling schools have applauded the new figures, they still decried the fact that black and Latino males figured disproportionately in the arrests.

Of the borough’s 24 arrests, 20 came from the NYPD’s Patrol Borough Queens South, with black and Hispanic males accounting for the lion’s share.

“The numbers seem less than what we as young people experience in reality with cops in schools,” said 15-year-old Manny Yusuf, a youth leader with the Jackson Heights-based group Desis Rising Up and Moving.

“But it’s still the same things — youth of color are still policed in schools just like we’re being policed in the streets through stop-and-frisk policies,” she added. “We need restorative justice, counselors, mentors, peer mediators to be there for us, not cops who are going to arrest us.”

The Dignity in Schools Campaign, a coalition of civil liberties groups including the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the city Department of Education should be focusing more on preventative measures rather than heavy-handed disciplinary policies.

“Parents, teachers and everyone who has been ringing the alarm bell over the criminalization of our youth should be proud of the significant decline in arrests and summonses issued in our schools, and the Department of Education should be commended for this important step in the right direction,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “But there is still a lot more work to do. If the Bloomberg administration is serious about helping young men of color succeed, it must address the fact that too many children are still coming into contact with the criminal justice system when they should be getting an education, and that youth of color are still getting disproportionately targeted by the police. Our school resources should be focused on educating children, not arresting them.”

The coalition said there are more than 5,100 school safety officers in city schools, but only 3,200 guidance counselors.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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