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Police Admit Error in Arrest of 12-Year-Old Girl Caught Doodling on Desk

Posted Feb 5, 2010 2:02 PM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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Police and education authorities have acknowledged they may have used bad judgment Monday when they arrested and cuffed a 12-year-old Queens girl who'd been caught doodling on her desk with erasable marker.

Junior high student Alexa Gonzalez wrote "I love my friends Abby and Faith" and "Lex was here 2/1/10" with a smiley face while she waited for her Spanish teacher to pass out homework, the New York Daily News reports.

Instead of instructing her to erase the doodles, Gonzalez was reportedly led from the school in handcuffs, walked to a precinct across the street and detained for hours.

City Education Department spokesman David Cantor told the paper that, "Based on what we've seen so far, this shouldn't have happened."

Police spokesman Paul Browne weighed in that common sense should prevail in situations like this.

The Daily News notes that the Gonzalez incident is the latest in a series of cases in which students have been handcuffed for minor infractions. Last month, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a class action suit against the city for using excessive force in middle and high schools. Named in the suit is a 12-year-old girl who was arrested last March for doodling on her desk.

"This should be a wake-up call to the mayor, the City Council and the Department of Education: There is a crisis in our schools because they put the police in charge of routine discipline that ought to be handled by educators," Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, said in a statement about the Gonzalez arrest. "We all want safe schools, but that means that our children must be kept safe by those assigned to protect them."

The NYCLU notes that since 1998 when the NYPD took control over schools in New York City, more than 5,000 School Safety Officers—NYPD employees assigned to the schools—and nearly 200 armed police officers have been assigned to public school beats. The NYPD’s School Safety Division is the nation’s fifth-largest police force, the NYCLU maintains.

Hat Tip: Criminal Justice Journalists

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