Are Black Students' Civil Rights Being Violated in New York?

January 11, 2012

The New York Civil Liberties Union recently reported that nearly 90 percent of the arrests of summer school students were of students of color, raising some Long Island civil rights issues.

Some people view civil rights issues as problems of the past dealing with race relations, voting and women's rights. But today there are plenty more issues that have come up as our country becomes more and more diverse.12754_hand_cuffs.jpg

Immigration, for instance, has become a major topic that brings up arguments daily, including some of which turn violent. States have attempted to create laws that many called racist, while politicians are constantly trying to cash in on the topic. Other issues that deal with civil rights are problems that deal with workplace labor law issues.

This can include discrimination, wage issues, sexual harassment or even physical harassment. Freedom of speech issues, whether at work or in public, can also happen on a daily basis.

NY1 recently reported that the New York Civil Liberties Union studied the numbers of arrests by New York police at the city's 63 public schools between July and September. The organization determined that 68 percent of African-American students were charged by police in that time frame and 90 percent were classified as students of color.

The organization's leaders believe this is disturbing trend and a disparity that must be changed. Black students make up only 29 percent of the student population year-round, yet make up nearly 70 percent of the arrests.

Some students said that they don't feel school safety officers treat all students fairly. Some believe the police treat Hispanic and African-American students more harshly than Asian and Caucasian students. One student told the news station that he had to spend time in jail after being accused of stealing a cell phone and now that will stay on his record permanently.

ACLU officials believe that school officials should take a look at police actions and determine if students are being arrested by officers simply for minor school infractions. Police officials reported that in the last decade there has been a 50 percent drop in major crimes and a 45 percent dip in violent crimes in the schools.

Police and school officials always have a difficult time with this balancing act. On the one hand, they must provide an education that can help students succeed in the future, but they also must provide a safe environment, but one that doesn't lead to unnecessary charges by bullying police officers.

Officers and teachers alike must not be quick to try to blame a student of color based on some type of deep-seeded bias or based on other past events. Each situation must be handled on a case-by-case basis. Students must be given the benefit of the doubt and not punished for something that could hurt their future without probable cause.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides civil rights counsel in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.

More Blog Entries:

Civil Rights Issue Arises in NYPD Officer Arrest: October 22, 2011

Additional Resources:

NYCLU: Over 90 Percent of Summer School Arrests Involved Students of Color, by Dean Memimger, NY1.com