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Hillcrest HS Student Allegedly Beaten by Safety Officer Gets $24K From City

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | November 20, 2015 3:11pm | Updated on November 22, 2015 8:05pm
 Several students claimed they were victims of excessive force by school safety agents. 
Several students claimed they were victims of excessive force by school safety agents. 
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QUEENS — The city will pay a total of $54,000 to several New York City public school students who claimed they were mistreated by school safety agents, settling a lawsuit the New York Civil Liberties Union filed on their behalf.

The six students who were part of the case said they “were punched, thrown, handcuffed for hours, verbally abused and wrongfully arrested” by NYPD school safety agents in separate incidents, the NYCLU said Thursday.

Four of the them will receive payments as part of the settlement. 

The largest payout of $24,000 was awarded to former student at Hillcrest High School in Jamaica, Lameak Williams.

Williams claimed he was beaten by school safety officers in 2008 after they thought he was carrying a cell phone. He was taken to a hospital, arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. The charge was later dismissed.

“What happened changed my whole outlook," said another student, Destiny Bruno, who will receive $20,000. She was 14, when in 2008 she was punched several times in the head during an altercation with a school safety officer at Maxwell High School in Brooklyn and later detained overnight in a juvenile detention center. 

"I used to think police were in school to protect us, not physically hurt us. But afterwards I stopped feeling comfortable walking in the halls," she said.

Two other students will also receive payouts of $5,000 each.

“Aggressive policing in schools victimizes our city’s most vulnerable children and hurts all students by creating an environment of fear instead of learning and support,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman in a statement. “Treating students like they are criminals instead of nurturing them will not make our schools safer.”

As part of the settlement, the students will also have the opportunity to share their experiences during a meeting with the commanding officer of the NYPD’s School Safety Division, according to the NYCLU.

The lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2010, also challenged the practices of the Bloomberg Administration and sought reforms that would include new methods of training school agents. The de Blasio Administration has since announced a series of changes seeking to address the issue. 

City Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci said in a statement that the agency was "pleased with this settlement, which recognizes the remarkable work the City has done to further the safety and dignity of students, including implementing aggressive reforms and improvements in the area of school safety and discipline."