NYCLU Sues Police Over Wrongful Arrest of Teachers
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NYPD Must Respect Authority of School Officials, Says Group
NEW YORK — The New York Civil Liberties Union and co-counsel Morrison & Foerster LLP today announced the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of two high school teachers who were arrested, handcuffed and verbally abused by Police Department officers after they questioned the handcuffing of two students who had been involved in a fight.
“When school officials call the police onto their campuses, they should be able to expect that the police will respond lawfully and will treat students and staff with respect,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “Except in an emergency where health and safety are in imminent danger, the police must be instructed to respect the authority of school officials.”
The NYCLU charged that the teachers were wrongfully arrested and is urging the police department and the City Department of Education to develop adequate protocols governing the role of police officers in schools.
The lawsuit describes an incident last March in which police officers arrested English teacher Quinn Kronen and social studies teacher Cara Wolfson-Kronen at the New School for Arts and Sciences in the Bronx. Wolfson-Kronen (who is married to Quinn Kronen) had called 911 for medical assistance for a student who had been injured during a fight in a school bathroom. The police arrived at Kronen’s classroom and handcuffed some of the students who had been fighting, even though school personnel had already broken up the fight and separated the students.
According to the complaint, Kronen questioned the officers’ decision to handcuff the students, but the officers yelled at him and ordered him to be quiet. The complaint also states that Wolfson-Kronen, who was in the classroom, objected to the officers’ actions and was immediately handcuffed and arrested. Police made her wait handcuffed in the hall in front of her students, and then forced her to wait outside the building, where the temperature was below freezing.
The police then arrested Kronen as well, and both teachers were held at the 41st precinct in the Bronx for nearly two hours before being released with summonses for disorderly conduct. The charges against both teachers were dismissed at arraignment.
The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks reforms in NYPD training and policies on the relationship between school officials and police officers. The teachers are also requesting unspecified damages, a declaration that their rights were violated, and the return and expungement of all records reflecting their arrests and detention.
The NYCLU is bringing the teachers’ case at a time when heavy-handed policing has caused significant disruption at schools all over New York City. In December, Aurelia L. Curtis, principal of Curtis High School in Staten Island, was removed from her position after police claimed that she had not been deferential enough to police as she dealt with two student disciplinary issues. Curtis’s removal drew protests from parents, students and the teachers’ union; she has since been reinstated.
In a similar case, a popular principal and aide were arrested and removed from their positions at the Bronx Guild High School for more than two months last year after objecting to the questionable arrest of a student in a classroom at the school.
Statements from the teachers in the lawsuit are online at: www.nyclu.org/kronen_stmnt_030506.html
For a copy of the complaint, go to www.nyclu.org/pdfs/kronen_complaint_030306.pdf
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