N.Y. Civil Liberties Union Questions School Police Tactics


The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has released a report discouraging the use of metal detectors, as well as what it deems are aggressive policing and harsh disciplinary policies at New York City schools.

Safety with Dignity: Alternatives to the Over-Policing of Schools explores the approaches to security and discipline favored by six schools, which serve at-risk student populations, similar to schools with some of the harshest discipline policies.

According to the report, which was also authored by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and Make the Road New York, none of the six schools featured currently has metal detectors, although some used the devices in the past. Each employs alternative strategies to intervene with troubled students, and they generally enjoy long-term, positive relationships with school safety agents, NYPD civilian personnel assigned to patrol the schools.

Additionally, the study claims these schools have improved attendance, student retention and graduation rates, as well as dramatically fewer criminal and non-criminal incidents and school suspensions than schools equipped with permanent metal detectors.

The report recommends that the New York Department of Education:

  • Discourage the installation of metal detectors. Schools can create safe and successful learning environments without relying on metal detectors.
  • Restore discipline responsibilities to educators. Minor disciplinary infractions must be handled exclusively by school officials, not police personnel.
  • Assign fewer School Safety Agents to patrol schools. The number of police personnel patrolling the city’s schools should be reduced significantly, creating financial savings and strengthening the educational mission of the schools.
  • Mandate alternatives to harsh discipline. Restorative justice practices, a conflict resolution method used at several schools profiled in the report, should be implemented in all city schools.
  • Ensure students’ input into school rules. Giving students a sense of ownership over the school rules makes them more willing to obey codes of conduct.
  • Institute transparency and accountability in school safety practices. The DOE must disclose raw data to allow New Yorkers to determine the effectiveness of school safety practices. Moreover, School Safety Agents should be subject to the same oversight as police officers.
  • Provide support services for students’ non-academic needs. Partnering with local hospitals and community based organizations to provide students health care and social services addresses non-academic challenges before they develop into behavioral problems.

To read the entire July 8 report, click here.

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