One day in September 2008, Queens High School student Stephen Cruz suffered a lacerated forehead when school safety agent Daniel O’Connell, without provocation, allegedly kicked open a restroom stall that Stephen was using. Cruz claims that after he tumbled to the floor bleeding from his head, O'Connell (whom the students called RoboCop) walked away saying, "That's life; it will stop bleeding." Typical robot.
Cruz's family filed a federal lawsuit along with the NYCLU, naming NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, School Chancellor Joel Klein and the supervisory officer at the 107th Precinct as codefendants for their roles in allegedly covering up the incident and for their failure to properly train, screen, discipline or supervise school safety agents. Yesterday a federal judge approved a settlement deal for $55,500.
The NYCLU claims the incident "illustrates the tension and lack of transparency and accountability that has existed in schools since school safety was transferred from the Department of Education to the NYPD in 1998.The school’s principal apparently indicated to the family that he had no authority to discipline O’Connell, who is an employee of the NYPD." The settlement comes as the City Council prepares to hold hearings next week on the Student Safety Act, which would require quarterly reporting by the DOE and NYPD to the City Council on a wide range of school safety issues.
Overly-aggressive policing of NYC schools has been a major bone of contention with the NYCLU, and the group distributes literature to students informing them of their rights when interacting with police in schools. As for Cruz, he told reporters yesterday, "Even though we settled and they tried to compensate for that, it's still not right; that scar is always going to be there."