Today I was struck by the absolute harassment that occurred between the subway and the classroom. Not from gangs, or other kids, or thugs - from the police and security forces that are supposed to protect us. When the train doors opened, there were several officers on the platform who immediately questioned any teen wearing a hoodie and a backpack. They didn’t seem to be investigating anything in particular, and when they weren’t questioning kids, they appeared relaxed. Since I am older and had no back pack, I was able to move quickly and effortless to the steps and walk down to the street level. Waiting at the bottom of the steps were several more officers, engaged in the same type of questioning, and searching teens’ backpacks. Nobody noticed me, and I kept walking.
A couple of blocks from the train station a street was closed due to flooding and a police officer was standing by his car. Again, kids were being questioned. Finally, I arrived at the school. As I walked into the lobby, there were about a dozen students trying to get in the doors. No worries for me - I just waltzed right by and was not even required to sign in or show my I.D. (usually a requirement in NYC schools). The kids, on the other hand, had many worries. The security officers prodded them for details on their clothing choices, phones, etc., and scanned them with metal detectors. Some finally made it through the doors, but several others gave up and went home.
I know what some might think - this is all for student safety. Surely these kids were up to something. But I can tell you that is probably not the case. I have witnessed similar scenes too many times and heard too many stories from educators, students, and parents. Some NYC schools actually deploy staff members to the subway stations and school entrances to assist students with the police and security personnel.
So I ask you: if you were harassed by law enforcement and security daily on your way to work, detained multiple times and accused continually of breaking the law, when all you wanted to do was go to work, would you keep going?