Youth Rally to End School Policing

On Friday, September 22nd, youth gathered on the steps of the Department of Education in Manhattan to demand that the DOE end arrests and summonses in schools, divest from school policing practices, and invest in restorative justice. The rally was organized by the Urban Youth Collaborative, a coalition of youth organizing groups including Make the Road NY, Future of Tomorrow, Sistas and Brothas United, and the Rockaway Youth Task Force. Representatives from VOCAL-NY, Ugnayan Youth for Justice and Social Change, and Dignity in Schools Campaign - New York were also in attendance.

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In NYC, Black and Latinx students make up 67% of the student population, but are disproportionately affected by harmful school policing practices when compared to their white peers. Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students currently account for 95% of all students arrested, 93% of all students who receive a summons, 93% of all NYPD Juvenile Reports, and 96% of all students who are handcuffed for emotional distress. Last year, the youngest student to be handcuffed in an NYC school was a 5 year old Black girl. This systematic criminalization has devastating effects for students, and leads them straight into the school-to-prison and school-to-deportation pipelines.

Several students wore orange jumpsuits to the rally to symbolize the life-shattering consequences of the school-to-prison pipeline. Andrea Colon of the Rockaway Youth Task Force spoke at the rally. Andrea is a senior at Rockaway Park High School. She spoke about the lack of guidance counselors and mental health professionals at her school compared to the number of students they have. In fact, those resources are decreasing in her school while an increased number of school safety officers are being hired. She says, “This year, my school had to let go of a guidance counselor due to lack of funding, and now we have 2 counselors for 300 students and my school’s administration insists that that is enough but it is not.”

For Andrea, the most frustrating part is that there are proven alternatives to school policing practices that do not traumatize, brutalize, or criminalize students, “It’s just so frustrating because there’s a solution, such as restorative justice and hiring more counselors, right in front of us, but the DOE refuses to take part in that.” Last school year, $366 million was budgeted for NYPD-trained school safety officers but only $1.7 million was allocated for restorative justice programs. This year, $392 has been budgeted for school safety officers, while only $1.5 million is expected to be allocated for restorative justice programs. Essentially, we are going backwards in many of our schools, at the expense of our students’ futures and the profits of the prison-industrial complex.

The way we educate our students now will determine the future of our society. We must continue to step up and make our voices heard until the DOE is forced to listen. And, as we chanted together at the rally, “I believe that we can win.”