Demonstrators gathered at City Hall yesterday to support the passage of the Student Safety Act, which would force the NYPD’s School Safety Division to release detailed data on the race, sex, age, disability, and socioeconomic status of every city student who has faced suspensions, expulsions, and arrests at school. To put it in context, the New York Civil Liberties Union says the city’s public schools have twice as many police officers (5,200) as guidance counselors. The figurehead for the burgeoning student-rights movement is Kew Gardens resident Alexa Gonzalez. In February, Gonzalez was escorted from her social-studies class for doodling on her desk with an erasable marker. At the dean’s office, she had to empty her backpack, take off her shoes and sweater, and then have her pockets searched. After that, four NYPD officers were called, and walked her out in handcuffs with her classmates watching.
Gonzalez is not the only city student whose handcuffs haven’t matched her crime in recent years. In 2007, 13-year-old Chelsea Fraser was placed under arrest for writing “okay” on her desk. (This whole unmarred-desk obsession seems out of keeping for a school system willing to massacre perfectly good ones.) And in 2008, kindergartner Dennis Rivera, then 5 years old, was cuffed and sent to a psychiatric ward after he threw a fit.
In Gonzalez’s case, her mother, Moraima Camacho, was told she would have to go to family court on vandalism charges. But Camacho went to the local media, and eventually to CNN and Dr. Phil. Afterward, both the Department of Education and the NYPD admitted that they broke their own guidelines and overreacted with Alexa, and the case disappeared. Gonzalez is a pretty girl who had a perfect attendance record before being dragged out in handcuffs. Wonder what happens to students who don’t cut as sympathetic a jib.