Watch CBS News

Data shows Black students, students with disabilities more likely to have police called on them in New York state elementary schools

Looking at data for police called on elementary school students in NY
Looking at data for police called on elementary school students in NY 03:21

Warning: Some of the content in the video above may be hard to watch.

NEW YORK -- In collaboration with CBS News, we've been investigating incidents of young students being arrested in schools.

There are cases all around the country of elementary school students being handcuffed in school and taken into police custody, and a CBS News analysis found students with disabilities are four times more likely to be arrested in school than their peers.

"These groups of kids are still maturing and developing and may not be at the typical rate of other kids that attend schools,"  said behavioral neuroscience professor Dr. Sonya Mathies-Dinizulu, of the University of Chicago.

She says students with disabilities may lose control over their own behavior more easily.

"They may act out behaviorally or emotionally be explosive, then the adults in school may start to feel-- or the authorities in the school may start to feel like, OK, this kid needs to be controlled immediately," Mathies-Dinizulu said.

CBS News analysis of data from the United States Department of Education shows police were called in school for elementary students here in New York state 213 times during the 2017 school year, with one arrest. That year is the most recent data set available.

Of all those New York kids, more than half had a documented disability, even though children with disabilities only make up only 15% of all elementary school students in the state.

RELATED STORY FROM CBS NEWS: Handcuffs in Hallways: Hundreds of elementary students arrested at U.S. schools

"This is definitely an issue in New York City, and we've been seeing it for years and years," said Dawn Yuster, with Advocates for Children of New York.

Yuster is director of the School Justice Project with Advocates for Children of New York.

"There is no comprehensive system that ensures that all schools can effectively support students' behavioral, emotional and mental health needs," she said.

The issue disproportionately affects students of color.

"There are several studies now that find that students of color are at much greater risk of [being] arrested in school," said Aaron Kupchik, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware.

Of those young New York children who had police called, the data shows 38% were Black, despite Black students only making up 17% of students in the state.

"We can take those resources and invest them in strategies that we know have a much better chance of success at keeping students safe, adding to the mental health care that we provide our children, investing in school social climate where students feel more a part of their school," Kupchik said.

This year, New York City's education and health departments are launching what's called a "mental health continuum" in 50 public schools in the Bronx and Brooklyn. The program trains teachers in those schools how to de-escalate a crisis and also connects them with a social worker hotline which they can call to help a student in real time.

"So that instead of calling police, instead of having police interventions, what you have is this comprehensive tiered approach to prevent and address student behavioral crises," Yuster said. "One thing that we have been really urging the Department of Education is to make sure that every school has something to offer. Every parent should find out, they should ask the principal, ask the parent coordinator, what are the mental health initiatives in my school?"

A spokesperson for the city's education department told us in part, "Every one of our schools has an in-school process for responding to students who are in crisis in the classroom ... At no point do classroom teachers directly contact NYPD regarding behavioral issues unless a student is at serious risk of self-harm or harming others."

The U.S. Department of Education told CBS News that more recent data will not be released until 2023.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.