NYCLU Sues NYPD for Data on Metal Detectors in NYC Schools

Demands Transparency on Deployment, Impact of Metal Detectors

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
August 26, 2020 3:30 pm

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NEW YORK – Today the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department to force the disclosure of information about the NYPD’s presence in schools and the impact of school policing on students through the use of metal detectors.

Since 2016, the NYPD has been required to produce data about its metal detector program, including the location of detectors, requests by principals to install or remove them, and items confiscated through scanning. The department has never fully complied with this requirement.

“The release of these records would help shine a critical light on the racially disproportionate impact that the deployment of metal detectors and police in schools have on students of color,” said Stefanie Coyle, Deputy Education Director at the NYCLU, and lead counsel on the case. “The premise that metal detectors and school police officers serve student safety has never been borne out by the facts or the experiences of students. The NYPD instead has relied on secrecy and evading transparency requirements to continue this surveillance project and dodge oversight.”

The NYCLU initially filed a Freedom of Information Law request for this information in January 2020 and filed two subsequent appeals in February and March. The NYPD denied most of the request, citing a supposed risk to public safety if the information were released.

“I am proud to stand with the NYCLU to demand transparency from the NYPD,” said Council Member Rory I. Lancman. “It is vitally important for the NYPD to produce all information about the operations of school safety agents and the use of metal detectors in NYC schools and it is the NYPD’s obligation under the law. They need to be held accountable for the questionable school enforcement practices they’re enforcing on students in plain sight.”

The presence of the NYPD in New York City schools became an increased subject of scrutiny in June during protests and City Council sessions following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Despite criticism and public pressure, the budget passed by the City Council kept the School Safety Division within the NYPD for the time being and did not reduce the size of the division.

The School Safety Division has more than 5,200 sworn police officers, making it one of the largest police forces in the country. These officers are deployed in school buildings across the city. Despite a 2005 law mandating the public disclosure of information on the deployment of these officers, little is known where they are assigned. The NYPD has also been non-compliant with this reporting requirement.

“The experience of being surveilled, searched and policed daily at school is a cruel, dangerous one that the NYPD primarily reserves for students of color,” said Johanna Miller, Director of the Education Policy Center at the NYCLU. “These students often attend school in communities that were hardest hit by COVID-19, are subject to the most intense and often violent police presence, and are among those with the least resources for successful remote learning. After the trauma of this past spring and summer, it’s imperative that we make schools safe for all kids by dismantling invasive and abusive school policing.”

The NYCLU Teen Activist Project and the YA-YA Network will also host a virtual town hall event on the use of metal detectors in school tomorrow, August 27 at 1:00pm. For more information or to RSVP, please follow this link or email media@nyclu.org.

You can find case materials here: https://www.nyclu.org/en/cases/new-york-civil-liberties-union-v-new-york-city-police-department

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