The future of the school-to-prison pipeline under Betsy DeVos is bleak

Buckle up, kids.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

You’ve read the stories.

An eighth grader was locked up for throwing skittles on a schoolbus. A 6-year-old girl was handcuffed for taking candy from a teacher’s desk. An officer slammed and dragged a high school girl, because she wouldn’t put her phone down. A Texas cop choked a 14-year-old boy over a shoving match in school. A middle school student was suspended and charged for allegedly stealing a carton of milk from a cafeteria — even though he didn’t do it.

Across the country, teachers rely on law enforcement and draconian punishments to correct students’ behavior in the classroom. In the Era of Trump, extreme discipline is poised to get worse.

During an interview with Townhall columnist Cal Thomas in February, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that character development and values are lacking in schools, which contributes to poor achievement. But education advocates and legal experts say poor achievement stems from racist and punitive policies disguised as character development, and worry about the future of the school-to-prison pipeline under DeVos’ leadership.

Trump won’t protect students’ civil rights

The pipeline is the result of treating students like criminals in schools —often for non-criminal behavior. Institutions with zero-tolerance disciplinary policies suspend and expel students — or have cops make arrests — for minor infractions, such as wearing the wrong uniform, truancy, disobeying teachers’ instructions, or getting into schoolyard fights.

Forced out of the classroom, kids are more likely to fall behind in coursework, drop out of school, and commit future offenses that land them in the criminal justice system. They also miss out on social and emotional learning that leads to maturation, self-control, and positive habits.

The discipline-centric approach “mirrors that broken windows policy that’s also discredited in law enforcement — that you attack the small things to prevent somebody from becoming a larger-scale criminal,” Karen Dolan, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, told ThinkProgress. And just as biased police disproportionately target people of color on the streets, biased educators determine which students are in need of correcting.

Based on national data, researchers have been able to create a general profile of the students most impacted by the pipeline. Black kids are most likely to be disciplined because of zero-tolerance policies — a trend that begins in preschool. Students who have disabilities are suspended two times more than students who do not, and account for one-fourth of students “arrested and referred to law enforcement,” per data from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

LGBTQ youth are disproportionately sanctioned as well. Many are penalized because of harassment or assault by their peers, or punished for their sexual orientation and gender expression. According to GLSEN, 15.1 percent of the LGBTQ students it surveyed had been suspended. Forty percent experienced some form of discipline, including suspension, detention, or expulsion.

The federal government was slowly chipping away at the pipeline under the Obama administration. Notably, the DOE and DOJ released nonbinding guidelines to clarify that “school personnel” are primarily responsible for standard discipline and should not rely on police, also known was School Resource Officers (SROs); called on public schools to end corporal punishment; and issued guidance to create behavioral supports for students with disabilities.

But during her confirmation hearing, DeVos said she would change course and “defer to the judgment of state and local officials” on the subject of biased discipline in school. “I do not think the nation’s governors want me to come to their states and tell them what to do,” she said.

As Secretary of Education, DeVos has been quiet about the school-to-prison pipeline. But her comments about character development and her general desire to privatize public schools are setting off alarm bells. Advocates fear that biased discipline will become even more harsh in schools and further jeopardize marginalized students.

“The language around values and character development isn’t necessarily negative in and of itself,” Policy Associate Kimberly Quick of the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank, told ThinkProgress. “But the problem is it could invite further bias against minority students and students with disabilities.”

A Round Rock, TX, police officer grabs a 14-year-old student by the throat. CREDIT: KXAN-TV

‘A failing of character’

DeVos’ push to enroll more students in public and private charter schools— which have freer rein to discipline students and less oversight than public institutions— is especially disconcerting to education policy experts. Those are the very types of schools that purport to be arbiters of character and values, Dolan said.

“Many Christian schools, private [schools], and charter schools bill themselves as a place for wayward teens,” she said. Such schools employ a “regimented, militarized” style of discipline and “take the same approach that many conservatives take with regard to poverty or any type of stereotyping of historically marginalized communities, where they say it’s a failing of character.”

Character development is part and parcel of the “no excuses” model embraced by charter school networks nationwide, which prioritizes a culture of uniformity and obedience. For instance, the Knowledge is Power Program, which has 200 member schools across the country, developed seven pillars of character that students must demonstrate: zest, grit, optimism, self-control, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity. STRIVE Preparatory Schools also emphasize “values” in the classroom, including scholarship, teamwork, respect, intelligence, virtue, and effort. To achieve these qualities, students must follow rigid behavioral norms outlined in school rulebooks.

Children and teenagers have been penalized for wearing the wrong shoes, closing their eyes, and leaning against walls. Demerits are handed out for taking notes at the wrong time and slouching. Any sign of “defiance” can get a student kicked out of class. Kids are disciplined for talking in the hallway, fiddling with their hair, or displaying “moral turpitude.” Teachers who fail to uphold strict standards in the classroom are monitored and, sometimes, demoted.

These expectations are also underscored by a troubling dynamic: the students whose behavior instructors are policing are disproportionately Black.

How Racial Bias Affects The Quality Of Black Students’ Education

“Students of color are often penalized under things like ‘values,’ for being ‘aggressive’ or ‘noncompliant,’ whereas white students presenting the same behaviors would be called ‘inquisitive’ or ‘independent,’” said Quick. “It’s concerning to hear that language, from a school discipline standpoint.”

As private institutions, charter schools have the authority to create their own policies without outside oversight. Nevertheless, the Civil Rights Project at UCLA collected data that paints a bleak picture: it found that charters suspend Black and disabled students at a higher rate than public schools. Black charter school students are also four times more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts, and disabled students are between two and three times more likely to be suspended than students with no disability.

Although she’s been silent on the school-to-prison pipeline, DeVos’ enthusiastic praise of charter schools could usher in a new wave of institutions that embrace racially-biased and severe behavior-correcting measures.

“It rings hollow to me, to have somebody say these children aren’t being given the best opportunities because their value system is being ignored,” Dolan said of DeVos. “The very opposite is true: It’s under attack. Their character is presumed to be bad, and they are attacked for that and pushed out of schools.”

CREDIT: iStock

Proving civil rights violations

Chief among policy experts’ concerns is that a lack of accountability in charter schools will spill into public ones.

The DOE’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) currently requires that public schools and charter schools that receive federal funding collect and report data on the use of school discipline. According to the ACLU, the DOE’s Civil Rights Data Collection tool “reveals school climate disparities related to discipline, restraint and seclusion, retention, and bullying” and accounts for “race/ethnicity, sex, limited English proficiency, and for students with disabilities and students without disabilities.”

Advocates fear that the requirement will be thrown out of the window. During the confirmation process, DeVos wouldn’t confirm that she’d enforce the data collection.

“If that data is not made available, we can’t tell where the problems are happening. It gives people and schools that are engaging in discriminatory practice cover,” Quick said. “You can’t prove it’s systemic.”

Also unnerving is DeVos’ lack of knowledge about discrimination in schools and her position on the current status of civil rights.

During her confirmation hearing in January, DeVos didn’t seem to know that the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a longstanding federal civil rights law that requires schools to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities. When Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) asked her if all K-12 schools that receive federal dollars should meet the requirements of IDEA, DeVos answered that “it’s best left to the states.” Following up on Kaine’s question, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) asked DeVos if she knew that IDEA is a federal law. DeVos responded, “I may have confused it.”

Then, during an interview in February, DeVos said that she “can’t think of any” civil rights issues in schools that should be addressed at the federal level. Days later, she showed how serious she was by rolling back Title IX protections for transgender youth.

“DeVos has not — so far — shown a great amount of knowledge around these issues and she hasn’t commented on tough issues like racial discrimination very much,” Quick said.

Candice Jackson, who DeVos tapped to lead OCR last week, doesn’t have an extensive background in civil rights law, ProPublica reported. During her undergraduate years at Stanford University, she also published a story about being discriminated against as a white person.

“The DOE worked very closely with the Office of Civil Rights to tackle nondiscrimination under the Obama administration,” Dolan said. “The DOJ and DOE worked hand-in-hand to look and see — and take seriously — the racial discrimination that exists in schools. They weren’t able to fix it, but they did recognize it.”

“I’m not sure that these would be priorities in her administration,” Quick said.

An SRO grabbed a South Carolina high school student and slammed her to the ground in 2015. CREDIT: YouTube

Discipline without aid

Dolan and Quick agree that DeVos’ language surrounding character development is also problematic because it fails to acknowledge the resources students need to thrive.

“[The] fact that she’s talking about character development without talking about support systems to make sure that students can really succeed in these environments is disturbing,” Quick said. For instance, DeVos has yet to discuss the lack of counselors in schools nationwide.

Statistics highlight the degree to which discipline has been militarized over time. There are approximately 17,000 SROs stationed in public schools, and they outnumber counselors in three of the five largest school districts in the country.

Juvenile justice experts and psychologists agree that misbehavior in schools is directly tied to social and emotional trauma outside of the classroom.

“Typically, children who are in need of extra help are coming from difficult circumstances,” Dolan said. “What are the stressors going on in a child’s life, both inside of school and outside of school? Are they hungry? Do they have sufficient housing? Are their family members okay?”

More and more, public school districts are trying to scale back harsh disciplinary tactics and emphasizing therapy to address student trauma. Social and emotional development was also a cornerstone of the DOE’s push to rethink discipline under the Obama administration. In 2014, the department created School Climate Transformation Grants, to better train teachers and “implement evidence-based strategies with multi-tier behavioral frameworks,” in roughly 1,000 schools.

Based on her record of supporting charter schools and the expansion of Christian education, DeVos’ idea of character development will likely look very different in the future.

“If we’re moving away from public schools that are increasingly paying attention to social and emotional development…into unaccountable charter schools and these character-based disciplinary approaches to educating children, we’re going in exactly the wrong direction,” Dolan said.


The future of the school-to-prison pipeline under Betsy DeVos is bleak was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Video shows officer stomping a black man’s head into the ground

DeMarco Anderson was lying face down on the pavement.

On April 8, Officer Zachary Rosen of the Columbus Police Department in Ohio stomped the head of a young black man into a sidewalk, according to video footage of the event that was uploaded last week.

The video was filmed just two weeks after Rosen eluded criminal charges for fatally shooting a 23-year-old black man.

As seen in the video, DeMarco Anderson is lying flat on the ground and in the process of having his hands cuffed behind his back when Rosen runs up and kicks him in the head. Seconds before the blow, Anderson can be heard asking, “Why are you being aggressive, sir?” as an officer kneels on top of him. After his head hits the pavement, Anderson says, “Are you serious? I got cuffs on, sir,” as three additional officers surround him. Moments later, he is escorted to a police vehicle.

According to local reports, police were called on Anderson after he fired a gunshot at a house close to the scene of the arrest.

Columbus police say that force was unwarranted in this situation and are currently investigating Rosen’s actions. Rosen has been taken off of patrol duty indefinitely.

“Based on what we’ve [seen] in the video taken on Saturday April 8, 2017, the action taken by one of our officers does not meet the standards by the Columbus Division of Police,” the department said in a statement this week. “It appears to be inconsistent with the values and training we instill in our officers. The officer self-reported a kick to the suspect while the suspect was in custody. We’ll learn more as the investigation continues and take appropriate actions based on the facts gathered.”

In late March, just two weeks before the video was shot, a grand jury declined to indict Rosen and a second officer for the fatal shooting of Henry Green, a 23-year-old black man, in 2016. The grand jury decided that lethal force was justified against Green, who reportedly fired his gun at the officers. Witness accounts varied, but several agreed that the officers were in plainclothes and did not identify themselves as police at the time. There was also dispute as to who fired first — the officers or Green.

“It is unfortunate that it takes video evidence to uncover the actions of Officer Rosen but whatever it takes to expose how he has operated in our communities,” Green’s mother, Adrienna Hood, said in response to the forceful encounter with Anderson. “We now see the unreasonable aggression that my son saw in his last moments. Do the witnesses who stated that Rosen stood over Henry and emptied his clip now become more credible? Is this unbridled aggression a part of CPD training?”


Video shows officer stomping a black man’s head into the ground was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jeff Sessions’ prepared speech at the border referred to immigrants as ‘filth’

The word didn’t make it into his delivered remarks.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

During a speech at the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated his and President Donald Trump’s commitment to cracking down on undocumented immigrants. But one thing was missing from his speech as it was delivered: a phrase referring to criminals who cross the border as “filth,” which appeared in his prepared remarks.

In the text that was published on the Department of Justice website, Sessions told a grim tale of immigrant hordes crossing the border and wreaking havoc on U.S. citizens — a myth that has been debunked time and time again.

“We mean criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into warzones, that rape and kill innocent citizens and who profit by smuggling poison and other human beings across our borders,” the speech says. “Depravity and violence are their calling cards, including brutal machete attacks and beheadings. It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.”

But according to Catherine Thompson of Talking Points Memo, Sessions dropped “against this filth” while delivering the speech to border agents in Nogales, Arizona.

In the past, Sessions, like Trump, has enthusiastically expressed discontent with immigrants and vowed to deport thousands of undocumented immigrants who he’s repeatedly painted as hostile and violent.

As an Alabama Senator, Sessions opposed immigration reform by arguing that immigration “takes jobs from Americans and can, in fact, create cultural problems.” He was one of the most vocal Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential campaign, and supported him after he described Mexicans as bad hombres, rapists, and criminals. And during his first speech as the U.S. Attorney General in February, Sessions said, “We need to end this lawlessness that threatens Americans’ safety and pulls down wages of ordinary Americans.”

Based on the glaring omission on Tuesday, it appears as though Sessions thought the term “filth” would’ve been a step too far.


Jeff Sessions’ prepared speech at the border referred to immigrants as ‘filth’ was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

New York will no longer prosecute 16 and 17 year olds as adult criminals

Criminal justice advocates just scored another major victory.

Youth and juvenile justice advocates in New York notched a huge victory on Sunday, when state lawmakers voted to raise the age of people charged and imprisoned as adults. By October 2019, teenagers under the age of 18 will no longer be funneled through jails and prisons that house much older offenders, subject them to violence, and increase the likelihood that they’ll end up as lifelong offenders.

Before Sunday, New York was one of two states that prosecutes all 16 and 17 year olds as adults. But under a provision in the $163 billion state budget passed by the state legislature this weekend, New York will now divert them to family and youth courts and detain them in juvenile facilities. The age of criminal responsibility will be raised to 17 years old by October 2018, and 18 years old by October 2019.

According to Raise the Age New York, a campaign that has pushed the state to change the age of criminal responsibility, the reform will impact approximately 28,000 16 and 17-year-olds who are arrested annually. In New York, more than 70 percent of underage arrestees are Black or Latino, as are 80 percent of those who are ultimately locked up.

“Putting aside the fact that psychologists will testify that 16- and 17-year-olds often are not mentally mature, the reality of putting a 16- or 17-year-old in the same facility as hardened adult criminals is, on its face, cruel and unusual,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of the legislation.

Deadly New York City jail one step closer to shutting down for good

The reform signifies that the state is ready to prioritize young people’s rehabilitation, as opposed to treating them like criminals.

Juvenile justice researchers have long documented the adverse consequences that come with criminalizing youth. The risk of sexual assault is five times higher in adult facilities than in juvenile facilities. To reduce the likelihood of abuse, in compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, prison staff often throw youth into solitary confinement, which has disastrous psychological and physiological effects.

The probability that young people attempt suicide also skyrockets when held in adult prisons. And they are far more likely to become long-time criminals than their counterparts in the juvenile system, in part because adult facilities typically lack resources to facilitate academic, social, and emotional development.

This is the second major criminal justice victory New York has scored in the last two weeks. At the urging of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, Mayor Bill de Blasio recently agreed to shut down Rikers Island, the notoriously violent jail complex, over the next 10 years.


New York will no longer prosecute 16 and 17 year olds as adult criminals was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Christian group threatens to sue federal government over educational tool on Islam

It wants all subject matter on Islam discarded.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Molly Riley

The Christian Action Network (CAN), whose mission is “to protect America’s religious and moral heritage through educational efforts,” is preparing to sue the Department of Education (DOE) for lesson plans on Islam that it reportedly funded twice — over a decade ago.

After the attacks on 9/11, Access Islam, an educational program marketed to public elementary and middle school students, was created to provide a “fuller understanding of Muslims the world over.” Lesson plans combine PBS videos, handouts, and other classroom tools for fourth through eighth grade students in participating locations. They describe the pillars of Islam, Muslim American life, women in Islam, and sacred texts — altogether providing a comprehensive guide to the religion.

According to CAN, the DOE funds and supports the indoctrination of Islam, because the Access Islam website still lists the DOE as a funder. CAN also takes issue with the lack of comparable lesson plans for other religions, and is ready to take legal action.

“We demand that you immediately remove all such promoted lesson plans from the publicly funded web sites and immediately cease spending public funds on the promotion of the Islamic religion in this or any other manner,” it wrote in a letter submitted to Secretary of Education Betsy Devos on March 28. The group also demanded that DeVos publicly condemn the program as a rejection of the Constitution.

If the DOE does not comply within 60 days, CAN plans to file a federal lawsuit.

ThinkProgress has been tracking hate since Trump’s election. Here’s what we found.

“Can anyone imagine The Lord’s Prayer recited in a classroom?” Founder and President Martin Mawyer said in a statement on CAN’s website. “Or students taught that the Bible is the inspired, infallible final Word of God? Or displaying the Christian cross in the school classroom? Or lesson plans that encourage students to pray to Jesus Christ? It’s out of the question! Christ, the Bible, the cross and Christian prayer were thrown out our public schools decades ago.”

But experts on indoctrination flat out deny that Access Islam is, in fact, an indoctrination tool. Moreover, the DOE is not funding it.

During FY 2005, the DOE, under the Bush administration, offered $166,000 in grant money that went towards the project, and another $8,000 in 2006. The agency hasn’t offered additional funds since, and a DOE spokesman reportedly told World Net Daily that the grant actually went to the Educational Broadcasting Corporation at the time. The money was then funneled into Access Islam.

A federal lawsuit against the DOE over outdated information could lead to a costly legal battle at the expense of American taxpayers. Removing existing educational materials about Islam would also deprive students of the opportunity to learn about the fastest growing religion in the world, at a time when violent Islamophobia — largely predicated on misunderstanding — is on the rise.


Christian group threatens to sue federal government over educational tool on Islam was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Something is missing from the conversation about young girls in the nation’s capital

Actual girls.

CREDIT: Adobe Stock/ThinkProgress/Diana Ofosu

It took days of public outrage and the spreading of inaccurate information on social media for the country to realize that Black and Latinx girls frequently go missing in the nation’s capital.

Viral, albeit imprecise, tweets about 14 missing girls in Washington, D.C. eventually turned into a news story about public apathy surrounding the thousands of black and brown girls who vanish every year. It became a story about the glaring lack of media attention on girls of color, the issue of sex trafficking across the country, and the damage caused when missing girls are reduced to kids who have simply left their homes — a problem that’s perpetuated by law enforcement nationwide.

According to the most recent data from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), most of the D.C. girls who drew attention over the past two weeks have since been found. Five black girls are currently missing, and the MPD considers them “runaways.”

Much has already been said about the harm caused when law enforcement uses that term. As the Huffington Post reported, it erases the legitimate reasons why young girls of color leave their homes, such as the need to escape abuse. Put simply, the word “runaway” doesn’t typically generate media coverage or sense of urgency from the public.

Missing from most media reports, however, are the voices of black and Latinx youth themselves who are grappling with the news and misinformation about the missing, and confronting some of the dangers that come with living in the nation’s capital.

Sitting in a circle in the hallway of a D.C. high school, three 10th grade girls told ThinkProgress that they don’t always feel safe walking the streets and don’t trust news outlets to tell them what’s really happening. More alarmingly, Amyah, Kerlyn, and Latajah said police can’t be counted on to keep them out of danger.

A troubling disconnect

Despite the MPD’s reported commitment to locating the missing, the teens who spoke to ThinkProgress are skeptical. They don’t feel safe walking alone outside, and, due to conflicting news reports, they don’t know who or what to believe about what’s really happening to young girls of color.

“I think it’s crazy,” Latajah said. “I don’t know what to believe. They make up so many stories.”

There is one thing the three teenagers were certain of: they would not contact the police if they were in trouble and felt the need to run away from home. They all fear what could happen if they made that choice.

“They’ll probably take it out of proportion,” Amayah said. “Like you could need a little bit of help — maybe for them to talk to your parents. They’ll probably take you and put you in a orphanage or something like that [and] have you going through court dates. You don’t need more problems on your shoulder. You just need someone to look out for you.”

“I don’t trust them,” Latajah echoed.

Beyond the adverse effects that could come with talking to law enforcement, the three students believe that police just aren’t concerned about people who look like them.

“Mostly [police] care about the money,” Kerlyn said. “So whoever’s paying them the most, that’s who they’re gonna pay the most attention to.”

Black and brown families don’t have the financial resources to attract the attention of law enforcement or the public, so cops stop looking after a while, Latajah said.

According to Amayah, racism perpetuated by the media also plays a role in who benefits from local policing. “The news broadcasts certain things — not everything that’s going on, not all problems,” she said. “I don’t think they show colored girls as they should, or colored people period, unless they committed a crime or something like that.” Undervalued by the public, it’s no wonder that police don’t prioritize black and brown youth, including girls, she said.

Altogether, the general lack of trust in police is a key reason why so many young people are running away from home instead of seeking help from authorities who are theoretically supposed to assist them, the students said.

It is impossible to know how many black and brown girls living in the city are mistrustful of law enforcement. There are likely some who would feel comfortable dialing 911 or showing up at a police station for safe haven. But if there are hundreds going missing every year, it begs the question: Why are so many people running away instead of putting their lives in the hands of police?

The MPD insists that nothing sinister is behind the recent disappearances, and says the number of missing girls isn’t increasing. Instead, MPD says it’s merely switched up the approach to searching for missing people by posting more photos on social media. More than 500 juveniles have gone missing this year, nearly all of whom have since been found by the MPD. According to police spokeswoman Karimah Bilal, the majority of people left on their own accord. Commander Chanel Dickerson denies that kidnapping and trafficking are concerns. On its website, the MPD also boasts that it solves “more than 99 percent of missing persons cases.”

Underlying law enforcement’s response to the issue is the idea that the problem isn’t as big as it’s been made out to be; that public perception doesn’t reflect the statistics.

But that framing discounts what should still be considered a major problem: Black and brown girls are still more likely to turn up missing, and most people don’t bat an eyelash. Even more troubling, young people don’t think law enforcement will protect them from a similar fate. They do not feel seen or heard.

‘We need to talk about certain things.’

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to preventing people from going missing — whether they are “runaways ”or victims of kidnapping and trafficking.

On March 24, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office unveiled six initiatives “to locate young people who have been reported as missing, provide critical resources to better address the issues that cause young people to run away from home, and support young people who may be considering leaving home.”

Overall, the initiatives call on community investment to address the problem. For instance, more officers will work for the MPD’s Children and Family Services Division; organizations dedicated to child services will work with community groups to evaluate and provide resources for missing persons when they’re found; a working group to research “trends” and establish a support system for families coping with a missing person.

For their part, Amayah, Latajah, and Kerlyn think authority figures — especially police — should be proactive in establishing trusting relationships with young people, so that endangered girls feel comfortable asking for help. None of them contend that police have done enough to earn their trust.

“I believe they should start a community group. If they started something like that, more people would say, ‘Oh they did this for us. Maybe they aren’t as bad as we see them,’” said Kerlyn.

But police aren’t the only ones who could be doing more.

Once news of the missing girls became a national story, none of the students’ teachers brought it up in class. To their knowledge, few — if any — instructors or administrators talked to other classes. But this would have been a perfect time for them to start a productive dialogue and lay groundwork to potentially reduce the number of runaways in the city, the girls told ThinkProgress.

“We have to leave. We have to go home after school,” Latajah said. “They need to make sure we’re ok and stuff. We need to talk about certain things.” Kerlyn added, “Some people might be struggling in life and teachers need to be open-minded about that.”

The media also has a responsibility to paint black and Latinx girls in a more positive light, the high schoolers said. When that happens, public opinion will change and more people will care about them before and after they disappear, Amayah said.

“You can never really be sure about what’s going on,” she said. “A lot of them are probably dead, and we don’t even know about it.”


Something is missing from the conversation about young girls in the nation’s capital was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Donald Trump, sexual harasser, declares April National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention…

Donald Trump, sexual harasser, declares April National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

Ironic.

Hundreds of thousands of women marched on Washington to protest Donald Trump’s presidency. CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Nearly six months after tapes were released of him bragging about sexually assaulting women, Donald Trump declared on Friday that April is officially National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Citing the 300,000 people who are sexually assaulted or raped every year, Trump also proclaimed that his administration — specifically the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice — is stepping up to assist victims and prevent future attacks.

The bulk of his proclamation is a series of platitudes rather than a substantive plan to address rampant sexual violence and rape culture. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reportedly been told to establish a crime reduction and public safety task force to “develop strategies to reduce crime and propose new legislation to fill gaps in existing laws.” Trump also noted the importance of speaking out against sexual violence among peers, “mobilizing men and boys as allies in preventing sexual and relationship violence,” and showing women and children more respect.

“Together, we can and must protect our loved ones, families, campuses, and communities from the devastating and pervasive effects of sexual assault,” he said. “In the face of sexual violence, we must commit to providing meaningful support and services for victims and survivors in the United States and around the world.”

Trump supporters greeted by massive projection of quotes from sexual assault survivors

But it’s difficult to take this proclamation seriously, coming from a man who was filmed suggesting celebrities “can do anything” to women — such as “grab them by the pussy” — and who has a long, documented history of the type of misogyny that allows sexual violence to thrive. He routinely reduces women’s worth to their looks, implying that women who have publicly accused him of assault are too unattractive for their stories to be true. “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you. Man, you don’t know, that would not be my first choice,” he said during a campaign rally. On the campaign trail, Trump also argued that women who are sexually harassed at work should quit, shortly before hiring serial sexual harasser Roger Ailes.

It’s also hard to treat seriously Trump’s plan to protect victims in the U.S. and worldwide. His proposed budget threatens funding to uphold the federal Violence Against Women Act and bolster support for survivors. One of his first acts as President was to reinstate the global gag rule, gutting foreign aid to much-needed health service providers if they offer abortions — the very types of providers who assist survivors of sexual violence.

Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, also donated to FIRE, a group that purportedly fights for individual’s freedom on school campuses and allegations of sexual assault. The group once wrote:

“Unfortunately, much of the feminist ‘war on rape’ has conflated sexual assault with muddled, often alcohol-fueled, sexual encounters that involve miscommunication, perhaps bad behavior, but no criminal coercion. As a result, the drunken hookups all too common on today’s campuses can lead to devastating charges and penalties.

April has long been recognized as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The U.S. started observing the month in 2001, and since then, survivors and allies have used it for public education campaigns and activism.


Donald Trump, sexual harasser, declares April National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention… was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Deadly New York City jail one step closer to shutting down for good

Mayor Bill de Blasio reportedly supports the closing of the deadly facility.

Rikers Island jail complex. CREDIT: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

New York City is one step closer to shutting down Rikers Island, its violence-plagued jail complex known for deplorable living conditions and grisly deaths.

According to an Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform proposal — which reportedly has the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) — the notorious jail “must be phased out over the next 10 years and its facilities demolished.” In its place, the five boroughs will house their own, smaller jails, with a total of 5,550 beds city-wide.

As the New York Times reports, the plan requires a significant reduction in the current jail population — approximately 9,360 people — and 6,300 staff. To bring down the number of people held at Rikers, the commission proposed reforming state law to decriminalize certain low-level offenses, embracing alternatives to incarceration, and cutting the number of people pretrial detainees held on bail — roughly 80 percent of the jail population.

The commission, led by Judge Jonathan Lippman, was formed last year, with the goal of “[creating] a blueprint for an improved criminal justice system reflecting our city’s values of decency, dignity, and equal treatment before the law.”

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito proposed the group’s formation and publicly called for Rikers to be closed during a State of the City address in February 2016. The speech sparked an intense political debate about the plausibility of closing down one of the largest jails in the world. The Mayor did not previously support the idea, but on Thursday, Lippman informed the rest of the commission that de Blasio is now on board.

Thinking He Owed $25,000, A Man Spent 5 Months In Rikers. He Only Owed $2.

The plan is not set in stone, but the commission’s recommendations will be made public on Sunday.

Rikers has long been known for its violence and warehousing of poor people, including teenagers. Guards brutally beat detainees — many of whom have a mental illness — to the point of needing emergency care. In 2014, the use of force against prisoners was reported to have skyrocketed by roughly 240 percent in the span of a decade. Violence often drives people to attempt suicide.

People who haven’t been convicted of a crime also spend months — sometimes years — in solitary confinement, a policy likened to torture. Despite a change to the law in 2014, young people under the age of 22 were still segregated and forced to live in isolation last year.

The jail was built on a landfill, so prisoners inhale poisonous air and contend with foul smells, compounded by extreme heat.

Medical neglect is also ubiquitous. According to a study of the jail’s health care workers, many feel like they need to put their ethics aside to work there, citing the use of solitary confinement and physical abuse of prisoners. Last September, the city agreed to shell out $5.75 million for the gruesome death of a man with schizophrenia and diabetic, Bradley Ballard. After staff neglected his medical and mental health needs for nearly a week, Ballard was found dead in a cell without clothes on, coated in his own feces and urine.


Deadly New York City jail one step closer to shutting down for good was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

EXCLUSIVE DOCUMENTS: Officer had an ‘unusual’ number of complaints before he killed Ramarley Graham

New York City has shielded Richard Haste’s disciplinary history, yet publicly released his trial outcome.

Police officers and supporters clap as Officer Richard Haste, center, exits the courthouse after posting bail in New York.Officer Richard Haste. CREDIT: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

On Sunday, former NYPD Officer Richard Haste quit the police department before he could be fired for the deadly shooting of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed black teenager, in the Bronx in 2012. His resignation came two days after Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado concluded that Haste was guilty of tactical errors during the fatal encounter — a verdict reached after the NYPD launched an internal disciplinary trial in January.

Maldonado determined that Haste had used “poor judgment” and should have done more to prevent the shooting from happening. She also recommended the officer’s termination. However, Haste was given advanced warning and stepped down of his own accord.

“It’s been a nightmare for the last five years,” Graham’s mother, Constance Malcolm, told ThinkProgress on Monday. “I’ve been sitting through trial after trial and getting nowhere. What happened yesterday is even more disturbing: how the NYPD [deals] with family that goes through tragedy and continues to disrespect them,” she said, in reference to the decision to let Haste to step down.

In addition to exiting on his own terms, Haste left the department before his full disciplinary history was divulged to the public, despite the family’s quest for his records and public calls for greater police transparency in his case. However, an anonymous former employee for the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) sent ThinkProgress a copy of the officer’s disciplinary record. It matches the same format as NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s records, which were published by ThinkProgress and authenticated by the CCRB last week. According to those records and experts who analyzed them, Pantaleo showed a pattern of problematic behavior that would have stood out the NYPD even before he killed Eric Garner.

Andrew Case, a former policy director and spokesman for the CCRB, told ThinkProgress that the Haste document appears authentic. (The document can be found at the bottom of this article.)

The document reveals that Haste had six complaints lodged against him before he killed Graham with a single shot. All of them were submitted in the span of 13 months, yet none were substantiated.

Neither the NYPD nor the CCRB responded to requests for comment. ThinkProgress was unable to reach Haste for comment.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the police union that represented Haste, declined to talk to ThinkProgress. Communications Director Albert O’Leary said all questions should be directed to the NYPD and that a New York state law prevented the office from discussing disciplinary records.

ThinkProgress’ findings come at a time when civil rights attorneys in New York City are fighting several legal battles for more officer transparency, citing the need for greater accountability over police.

An ‘unusual’ number of complaints

Between September 2009 and October 2010, Haste had six complaints — a total of 10 allegations — filed against him with the CCRB, the independent agency tasked with investigating complaints against the city’s officers. In that time, he was accused of using physical force, pepper spray, and offensive language, as well as making an abusive frisk. Four allegations (submitted in two separate complaints) were removed from the document, so it is unclear what the reported offenses were.

The CCRB was unable to verify any of the allegations.

Haste was exonerated for using physical force, which means the CCRB determined he committed the act lawfully. Three allegations — two for using offensive language and one for making an abusive frisk — were deemed “unfounded,” meaning the CCRB found “sufficient credible evidence to believe that the subject officer did not commit the alleged act.” An allegation about offensive language was unsubstantiated, defined as not having enough evidence to conclude that Haste did something wrong. The CCRB ended its investigation of the pepper spray allegation when the complainant was found uncooperative. (As ThinkProgress previously reported, “uncooperative” is defined as missing two interviews with an investigator or not responding to a request for an interview — a process that can be intimidating for many complainants who are wary of law enforcement.)

The CCRB attempted to resolve two cases with redacted allegations through its informal mediation process, during which a complainant meets with the accused officer and a third, neutral party “for the purpose of fully and frankly discussing alleged misconduct and attempting to arrive at a mutually agreeable resolution of a complaint.” Per the CCRB definition, both cases were dropped when mediation was agreed to by both parties but the complainant did not follow through.

EXCLUSIVE DOCUMENTS: The disturbing secret history of the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner

Case also said that mediation is not an option in cases involving allegations of serious misconduct, such as firing a weapon or causing serious injury. A complainant will rarely agree to mediation if they want a full investigation.

Still, the number of complaints made against Haste is highly unusual. Roughly 8.8 percent of more than 36,000 NYPD officers have that many complaints, based on publicly available data spanning 2006 to 2017 on the CCRB website. The timing of Haste’s complaints also stands out, with all six occurring in just over a year. By contrast, Pantaleo’s CCRB records indicate that he had eight complaints, including four substantiated allegations, in nearly five years.

The number of complaints lodged against Haste in such a short time span is “unusual,” according to Case. “I would say that six complaints in one year, regardless of their outcome, is an extremely high number of complaints,” he said.

Nearly 15 months after the last recorded complaint was submitted against him, Haste charged into Graham’s home without a warrant and fired a single shot at the 18-year-old. Minutes before his death, Graham had been hanging out with friends near a local bodega. Haste said Graham was suspected of carrying a gun by some of his colleagues on an NYPD narcotics squad, so he followed the teenager home. He claimed to have burst in because the Graham was presumed to have a firearm. In reality, the teeanger was unarmed.

Two members of Haste’s Bronx narcotics unit later testified that they’d reported Graham to their colleagues when they saw him on the street “walking with purpose” with his hands on his waistband — language that’s often used to validate an officer’s behavior.

During Haste’s disciplinary hearing, the NYPD’s lawyers argued that he should have waited for backup and found cover if he thought his life was in danger.

Supporters for the family of Ramarley Graham chanted ‘Hands up! Don’t Shoot’ during a gathering in 2014. CREDIT: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

A search for justice

“That many complaints in such a short time should’ve been a huge red flag, especially since he had just joined the force in 2008,” Graham’s mother said. “This clearly shows that this officer was very aggressive.” The NYPD did not respond to the claim that this record suggested a pattern of aggressive behavior; the police union directed ThinkProgress back to the NYPD. ThinkProgress was unable to reach Haste for comment.

The administrative trial was the latest development in a legal saga between Graham’s family and the NYPD that spanned several years.

In 2012, Haste was indicted by a grand jury for involuntary manslaughter, but a judge called for a new grand jury because of an administrative error. The second one convened in 2013, but jurors decided not to indict Haste. In March 2016, the Department of Justice declined to file federal charges based on its own investigation of the shooting.

Malcolm filed a 24-page Freedom of Information Act request to obtain records about Haste’s time on the police force. As the Village Voice reported earlier this month, Malcolm sought “everything from Unusual Occurrence reports, police radio transmission records, and officers’ activity logs to NYPD policy documents, grand jury statements, and the notes police leadership relied on when speaking to the press about the incident.”

To her dismay, no information was turned over. Instead, NYPD Records Access Officer Richard Mantellino informed her that handing over the records would violate Public Officers Law Section 87(2)(e)(i). That law states that such records would “interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings” if they were released.

“There is no transparency related to CCRB and other complaints against officers,” Malcolm told ThinkProgress. “I have wondered: If Haste’s record had been transparent, and if [Daniel] Pantaleo’s record had been transparent… is it possible that Ramarley and Eric Garner would be alive today?”

New York City forces official who leaked police disciplinary records to resign, sparking outrage

Both the CCRB and NYPD were sued in the past couple of years by the Legal Aid Society for the release of disciplinary records and NYPD personnel orders, which included updated information about disciplinary actions taken against officers. The agencies abruptly stopped releasing the information towards the end of 2014 and 2016, respectively, citing a New York civil rights code. Section 50-a of the code prohibits the release of an officer’s records without consent, and the CCRB, NYPD, and lawyers for the city of New York have said police officials stopped the practice of sharing such information once they realized they were violating the law. Civil rights attorneys dispute that argument, citing the decades in which the NYPD voluntarily released records and the period of time between 2013 and 2014 that the CCRB shared disciplinary records upon request.

It is unclear if Haste granted the NYPD permission to discuss his disciplinary trial verdict, and he did not respond to a request for comment on the matter. If he didn’t grant permission, Case said, the NYPD is violating the law to its own advantage.

“It seems as though the department is releasing disciplinary outcomes — including the outcomes of trial-room verdicts, which they have said are barred by 50-a — when it makes them look good,” he said. “That’s really the whole problem with civil rights law 50-a. It’s almost impossible not to enforce it haphazardly or even strategically.”

Malcolm applauds Legal Aid’s decision to sue for disciplinary records and personnel orders. “I think [50-a] is taking us in the wrong direction. It’s taking us backward instead of going forward,” she said. “People see Richard Haste for who he is and see the department — how they protect these officers after they abuse people and kill people.”

Constance Malcolm responding to the news that Richard Haste resigned. CREDIT: AP Photo/Richard Drew

More questions than answers

If Haste had been fired, it would have been the first time someone was formally disciplined for the shooting, besides being placed on modified duty. But his resignation allowed him to avoid an official punishment — a move that Malcolm called a “slap in the face” during a press conference on Monday.

The Graham estate received $3.9 million from the city in January 2015 after filing a wrongful death lawsuit. But that sum of money hasn’t deterred Malcolm from seeking officer accountability for Haste and others.

“This was a perfect case to show us that our young men and women matter when they’ve been killed unjustly by police,” she said during the news conference. “But instead, you took the easy way out by letting this man resign.”

Malcolm and her relatives are now waiting to see if the NYPD disciplines two other officers who barged into her home before Graham was shot, Sgt. Scott Morris and Officer John McLoughlin. Malcolm told ThinkProgress that she has no idea when their disciplinary trials will begin. But seeing Haste’s disciplinary record has made her angrier than before.

“How did this man even get on the force and how he stay on the force?” she said. “It’s taken a toll on my family, but at the same time, I can’t give up because my son is worth the fight and I will never give up as a mother. I need justice and I need answers.”

Jack Jenkins contributed reporting to this story.


EXCLUSIVE DOCUMENTS: Officer had an ‘unusual’ number of complaints before he killed Ramarley Graham was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

EXCLUSIVE DOCUMENTS: The disturbing secret history of the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner

Official disciplinary records have been hidden from public scrutiny until now.

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo holds Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold. CREDIT: YouTube/New York Daily News

By Jack Jenkins and Carimah Townes

On July 17, 2014, NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo wrapped his arms around Eric Garner’s neck and squeezed. He held tight as his colleagues slammed Garner, 43 years old and asthmatic, to the ground. Garner, who was unarmed at the time, gasped for air, arm outstretched, saying “I can’t breathe” over and over as officers piled on top of him. Then he was silent.

The next day, when the New York Daily News released video of the encounter, Garner had already died from neck and chest compression. His death sparked national protests about police violence against the black community, and his final words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. On December 3, 2014, when a grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo, thousands of people in cities all over the country stormed the streets to chant Garner’s dying words.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo. CREDIT: YouTube/New York Daily News

Pantaleo became a symbol of law enforcement that acts with impunity — especially with respect to white officers interacting violently with black men. Not only had Pantaleo killed a man accused of bootlegging cigarettes, but he’d used a chokehold prohibited by the NYPD to do it.

Now, documents obtained exclusively by ThinkProgress indicate that Pantaleo, who is still employed by the NPYD, had a history of breaking the rules. These records are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit, and the city refuses to release them.

Before he put Garner in the chokehold, the records show, he had seven disciplinary complaints and 14 individual allegations lodged against him. Four of those allegations were substantiated by an independent review board.

Neither Pantaleo nor the NYPD responded to ThinkProgress requests for comment.

A pattern of problematic behavior

Pantaleo’s apparent disciplinary history was sent to ThinkProgress from an anonymous source who said they worked at the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), an independent agency that receives and investigates complaints against NYPD officers. The source did not disclose their name or identity to ThinkProgress, but four New York City attorneys told ThinkProgress the documents match the appearance of summaries of disciplinary proceedings before the CCRB. Two of these attorneys declined to have their names associated with the verification of the documents, citing fear that they would be associated with the leak. (The documents can be found at the bottom of the article.)

“It sure looks like a bona fide CCRB document,” said Christopher Dunn, who serves as associate legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and has worked closely with the CCRB for years. He and others were quick to note that the documents could be forgeries, while acknowledging that producing them would be difficult.

The CCRB declined to comment on whether or not the documents were authentic when contacted by ThinkProgress. However, when asked if a CCRB complaint number listed on the documents (CCRB# 201116562) was a real case, representatives confirmed that it was, adding that it had been closed. The CCRB press office would not say if it was attributed to Pantaleo, as the agency does not typically disclose the names of officers attached to cases.

The documents show four of the allegations were substantiated by the CCRB, which recommended disciplinary action against Pantaleo years before he killed Garner. According to the records, the agency had sufficient evidence of an abusive vehicle stop and search by Pantaleo in 2011, which resulted in a two-part complaint. The agency also substantiated allegations about an abusive stop and frisk in 2012, which resulted in another two-part complaint that was reported by DNAinfo in April 2016.

According to the opinion of experts interviewed by ThinkProgress and our own review of CCRB data, this, along with the sheer number of cases, indicates a chronic history of complaints against Pantaleo and would make his disciplinary history with the CCRB among the worst on the force.

The documents indicate that the CCRB pushed for the harshest penalties it has the authority to recommend for all four substantiated allegations: charges that aren’t criminal, but “launch an administrative prosecution in the NYPD Trial Room,” according to the CCRB, and can result in suspension, lost vacation days, or termination. But the NYPD, which is not required to heed the CCRB’s recommendations, imposed the weakest disciplinary action for the vehicular incident: “instruction,” or additional training.

It also diverged from the CCRB’s stance on the 2012 stop and frisk. While the NYPD found Pantaleo guilty of unauthorized frisking, it cleared him of making an abusive stop. Instead of eight forfeited vacation days, per the CCRB’s recommendation, Pantaleo only had to forfeit two.

CREDIT: Illustration of CCRB document by Jack Jenkins/ThinkProgress

Jonathan Moore, a civil-rights attorney who represented Garner’s family and four of the Central Park Five, noted that the previous stop-and-frisk case was telling.

“Imagine that. Here’s the disposition of a substantiated charge for making a bad vehicle search and a bad vehicle stop, and the remedy is instruction,” Moore told ThinkProgress. “What happened on July 17th with Eric Garner was a bad stop and frisk.”

The documents also show allegations that Pantaleo refused to seek medical treatment for someone in 2009, hit someone against an inanimate object in 2011, made abusive vehicular stops and searches on two separate occasions in 2012, and used physical force during another incident in 2013.

The documents indicate that the 2009 and 2013 incidents were unsubstantiated by the CCRB, meaning “available evidence is insufficient to determine whether the officer did or did not commit misconduct.” So too were the vehicular stops and searches in 2012. The 2011 case was closed because the complainant was “uncooperative,” which the agency describes as not answering investigator requests for an interview or missing two interviews.

But legal experts say the number of complaints should have raised red flags, even if they weren’t substantiated.

“Regardless of the outcome, if you get three complaints in a year, you’re supposed to be on performance monitoring,” Moore said. “He got three in the course of two months in 2012.”

CREDIT: iStock Photo

A record that stands out

Even a conservative reading of the documents indicates Pantaleo had among the worst CCRB disciplinary records on the force two years before his encounter with Garner. Yet the NYPD allowed him to stay on the streets.

When compared with publicly available data posted on the CCRB’s website, the records show that Pantaleo was subject to far more disciplinary allegations and substantiated complaints than the majority of his 36,000 fellow NYPD officers. The CCRB data, which is based on cases closed from 2006 to 2017, has its limitations: it does not appear to control for variables such as age or how long an officer has been on the force. For example, an officer with a decade in uniform may have the same number of complaints as an officer with just a year’s experience: common sense would say the less-experienced officer is the worse offender, but the records would make no distinction between these two hypothetical cases.

Nevertheless, a ThinkProgress analysis of available CCRB data found that only 1,750 current NYPD officers — or around 4.9 percent of the force — have received eight or more complaints, as Pantaleo has. The same data also shows that only 738 officers — about 2 percent — have two or more complaints with substantiated allegations.

It is rare for the CCRB to substantiate complaints at all: Only 5 percent of complaints made to the CCRB were substantiated in 2011, when the agency first recommended charges against Pantaleo. Similarly, only 9 percent of complaints were substantiated in 2012, when the CCRB again recommended charges against him (in the past decade, 2012 was the year with the lowest number of complaints filed).

Complaints older than 3 years are not available for review on the website, and the data does not list the officer’s name.

Pantaleo’s CCRB disciplinary record stops in 2014, when he was put on desk duty in response to Garner’s death. The CCRB case number on the document that appears to reference this incident, when entered into the CCRB’s web-based complaint status lookup, indicates an investigation is ongoing.

“[H]e was an officer with a checkered past.”

“It’s clear he was an officer with a checkered past,” Moore said, referencing the leaked documents. Moore noted that Pantaleo also had three complaints filed in federal court (one was settled, one was dismissed, and one was rejected on summary judgment but remains active on appeal).

The CCRB records don’t elucidate what happened to warrant each of the complaints against Pantaleo.

Anyone can file an initial complaint against an officer in several ways: making one in person at the CCRB office or satellite locations, completing a form on its website, calling its hotline, or sending a written letter. They can also pick up a complaint form at a police station and mail it to the CCRB. To trigger an official investigation, however, complainants have to give an investigator an in-person statement.

According to Cynthia Conti-Cook, a staff attorney at New York’s Legal Aid Society, some people are physically unable to visit the CCRB office, and the agency does its best to accommodate them. But when the CCRB determines that a complainant is “uncooperative,” as it did in a case against Pantaleo, the complainant may have just given up on the CCRB or been scared to go through with the process.

“That’s intimidating for a lot of people,” said Conti-Cook, who belongs to Legal Aid’s Special Litigation Unit.

During its most recent public board meeting in February, the CCRB’s interim executive director, Jonathan Darche, said the agency has “a duty to investigate complaints in an effective and thorough fashion” that takes into account why a complainant was not reachable. “Before an investigator can close a case as ‘complainant unavailable,’ he or she must make a certain minimum number the contact attempts,” he said. Darche also mentioned community feedback that the agency has received about fear of retaliation for pursuing a complaint.

“Some of the issues raised by these groups include the fact that people fear retaliation if they follow through with a complaint and that our complaint process is too complicated and the requirements we have too numerous,” he said. “The staff is committed to working through these issues to attempt to address these concerns. There may not be solutions but we as an agency have an obligation to look and see if we can find answers to these issues.”

As for the investigation process, Conti-Cook also raised concerns about the hiring resources at the CCRB’s disposal, which she learned about several years ago. “They’d been hiring investigators who are fresh out of undergrad, and they were up against police officers in a lot of these interviews who sort of just give them a narrative of the event and then don’t answer follow-up questions and have a union representative present.”

According to the CCRB website, there is a rigorous training process for all investigators. Each investigator is overseen by a manager with a minimum of eight years of investigative experience with another investigative or law enforcement agency.

The CCRB records don’t indicate which investigators were assigned to the apparent cases against Pantaleo, let alone their experience levels. Still, his record should have stood out to the NYPD.

Demonstrators march to protest the death of Eric Garner in the Staten Island borough of New York. CREDIT: AP Photo/John Minchillo

Transparency vs. privacy for uniformed officers

Pantaleo’s CCRB disciplinary record is part of a court battle between Legal Aid Society and the CCRB, which has refused to disclose his records and the records of other NYPD officers accused of misconduct. That information used to be available to the public, but a policy change has made them largely inaccessible.

According to Conti-Cook, the CCRB had released officers’ complaint histories to attorneys and reporters upon request beginning in October 2013, but abruptly halted the practice in September 2014. The CCRB declined Legal Aid’s request for Pantaleo’s disciplinary record in December 2014, so the latter filed a lawsuit in February 2015. The lawsuit only asked for substantiated CCRB findings on Pantaleo — not a summary of all complaints against him. Within months, State Justice Alice Schlesinger ruled in Legal Aid’s favor, saying Pantaleo’s substantiated records had to be handed over. The city’s lawyers appealed the ruling.

At the center of the dispute is a section of the New York civil rights code that the city’s lawyers say protects certain officer information: Section 50-a. According to the code, “All personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion, under the control of any police agency or department of the state… shall be considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of such police officer…”

City lawyers argue that handing over disciplinary records would violate the statute. But civil rights lawyers say that interpretation is erroneous, and doesn’t match up with history. Just as the CCRB released records upon request in the past, the NYPD used to be forthcoming about internal officer activity. For over four decades, it published daily “personnel orders” about goings-on within the department, from promotions to disciplinary actions. The information was posted in precincts and made available to reporters via the deputy commissioner for public information’s office.

The city stopped sharing that information in 2016, saying this longstanding practice was also in violation of 50-a.

Civil rights attorneys, advocacy groups, and journalists view the shift as a crackdown on transparency, despite the fact that Mayor Bill de Blasio campaigned on a platform of police reform.

Justice Department replaces New York team investigating Eric Garner’s death

“There is enormous frustration,” the NYCLU’s Dunn said. “As this dispute illustrates, [de Blasio] has not been good on police transparency. Indeed, arguably we are going backwards on police transparency. At this point there is even less information available about… disciplinary practices around police officers than there was before he came into office.”

Mayor de Blasio’s office disputed this claim.

“The mayor has delivered the farthest reaching police and criminal justice reforms of any mayor in the city’s history, including a commitment to equip all patrol officers with body cameras by 2019,” Austin Finan, as mayoral spokesman, told ThinkProgress. “We’ve been unequivocal about the need for greater transparency and urge advocates in favor of greater, lawful transparency to join us in that fight.”

The battle over police transparency could have a widespread impact. Samuel Walker, an emeritus professor at the University of Nebraska’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, told ThinkProgress that New York City unofficially wields incredible influence over police departments across the U.S. With the largest police force in the country and a robust local media presence, the NYPD can impact how officers and unions operate elsewhere.

“New York City news becomes national news,” Walker said.

“I don’t think it [the resistance to transparency] comes from the CCRB. I’m convinced it’s coming from the City of New York law department,” Conti-Cook said. “And I think that it’s a huge conflict for the City of New York law department to represent both the NYPD and the thousands of officers a year that are sued and to also represent the CCRB in a case like this, where the CCRB’s mission — and in every way its public interest — is supportive of transparency.” The New York City Law Department did not respond to a request for comment.

“[A]rguably we are going backwards on police transparency.”

Cook said that Legal Aid filed two other lawsuits against the CCRB, demanding disciplinary information for two other NYPD officers. It filed a fourth lawsuit in December 2016 against the NYPD to publicize documentation of all disciplinary actions from 2011 onward. Conti-Cook said oral arguments for the NYPD lawsuit are scheduled for this month. If Legal Aid wins that case, it could reverse the NYPD’s new restrictive interpretation of 50-a. Legal Aid hasn’t heard any indication that the NYPD intends to settle its lawsuit.

“[Police] are public officials who have powers that no other occupational group in this country has. They have the power to detain people, arrest them, to use physical force, and use deadly force,” Walker said, adding that disciplinary action against lawyers, health care professionals, and even dentists is shared with the public. “It is critical that we understand what they do and are they using those powers properly and lawfully.”

In January, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Kevin Richardson told the New York Times, “Going forward and working collectively with the Law Department, we will figure out the parameters of how we can regularly disclose the information as regularly as possible, while 50-a exists.”

Mayor de Blasio’s office, for their part, told ThinkProgress they will “continue to advocate for a change in the law.”

Eric Garner’s body lies in a casket during his funeral. CREDIT: AP Photo/New York Daily News, Julia Xanthos

Officer Pantaleo’s future

Meanwhile, Pantaleo’s fate currently rests in the federal government’s hands.

In December 2015, then-Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that the NYPD had completed its internal investigation of the Garner incident, but would not take disciplinary action until the Justice Department completed its own probe. As of January 19, the Justice Department was still investigating, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions could pull the plug. He has been a vocal opponent of federal investigations into local police departments. However, the Hill reported that Sessions informed civil rights activists on March 7 that the investigation will proceed.

As of September 2016, Pantaleo was on desk duty without a firearm. Awaiting his fate, he received a raise last year. His 2016 salary was $119,996 — a 14 percent increase from what he was making when he killed Garner.

Ryan Koronowski contributed research for this story.


EXCLUSIVE DOCUMENTS: The disturbing secret history of the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Trump’s Kentucky speech was most notable for what he didn’t say

In his first appearance after an explosive hearing, he didn’t say one word about the investigation into his campaign.

President Donald Trump speaks to a crowd in Louisville, Kentucky. CREDIT: AP Photo/John Minchillo

During a Monday night campaign speech in Louisville, Kentucky, President Donald Trump re-upped his past rhetoric about undocumented immigrants and the Affordable Care Act. But he was noticeably silent about the House Intelligence Committee’s hearings earlier that day, during which FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the FBI is investigating the administration’s ties to Russia and debunked — along with NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers — Trump’s claims that he had been wiretapped by his predecessor.

Trump first tweeted that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him during the election cycle on March 4.

The Justice Department was subsequently told to produce evidence to back his claims, which it was unable to do. Last week, Trump told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that he had based his tweets on news articles he’d read.

But on Monday, hours before Trump took the stage in Louisville, Comey flatly denied that Trump was wiretapped. “With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets,” he said. “And we have looked carefully inside the FBI.”

Comey also informed the House committee that the FBI was officially investigating Russian interference in the election, even though the agency doesn’t usually confirm or deny if an investigation is in the works. “In unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so,” he said. “This is one of those circumstances.”

Trump was eager to debunk claims of ties to Russia on Monday morning, when he fired off a series of tweets calling such claims “FAKE NEWS” and railed against Democrats. But his refusal acknowledge to acknowledge either of Comey’s admissions is out of step for the President, who rarely keeps his thoughts private.


Trump’s Kentucky speech was most notable for what he didn’t say was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Lawsuit: Sheriff David Clarke’s jail forced a woman to give birth while in shackles

Clarke’s Milwaukee County Jail is notorious for abuse.

Sheriff David Clarke salutes after speaking during the opening day of the Republican National Convention. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

In July 2016, a newborn baby died at the Milwaukee County Jail after the mother was forced to give birth on her cell floor. Now, three months after Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke’s Office was sued over the baby’s death, the controversial law enforcement leader is being sued for additional jail abuse of pregnant women.

According to a federal lawsuit filed on March 14, plaintiff Melissa Hall was shackled before, during, and after childbirth at a local hospital in 2013. A “belly chain” was allegedly wrapped around her waist when she needed to use the restroom, and she had “her wrists attached to the waist and her legs attached to one another by leg-irons.” Hall claims the jail deputies also denied medical providers’ request to take the chains off her during childbirth, which made it difficult for those providers to give her an epidural.

“The shackling and its consequences caused emotional and physical pain and suffering, discomfort, left marks on Plaintiff’s body, and exposed her to unreasonable risks of harm,” the lawsuit states.

Hall is the only plaintiff named so far, but her attorneys hope to represent more than 40 other women who were shackled while pregnant under Clarke’s leadership. The lawsuit claims that his jail has a “blanket shackling policy” as opposed to one that considers the security threat and risks associated with shackling individual women.

Wisconsin lawmaker wants Sheriff David Clarke booted from office, immediately

The shackling of pregnant detainees is a widespread trend, despite health risks to women and their babies. The practice leaves marks and bruises and prohibits women’s movement during labor and childbirth, rendering them unable to find a position to minimize pain. The restraints impede women’s balance, and hinder doctors’ ability to perform emergency procedures and maneuver the mothers to ensure a safe delivery.

Several law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement restrict the use of shackles on pregnant women, reserving the chains for detainees who are considered a safety or security threat.

“The misconduct described in this Count was undertaken with malice, willfulness, and reckless indifference to the rights of others, and was objectively unreasonable,” Hall’s lawsuit says. Her allegations are the most recent in a long line of abuse accusations lodged at Clarke and his jail. In June, Clark will appear in court as a defendant in a class action lawsuit regarding the jail’s shackling of additional pregnant women from February 2010 on.

The Milwaukee jail is also known for an alarming number of deaths in 2016. Four people died within its walls last year, including the newborn baby and a male detainee who died of thirst.

Clarke himself is an enthusiastic supporter of President Donald Trump and a proponent of vigilante justice. In the past he encouraged violence against Trump’s opponents and said Black Lives Matter activists are “black slime” who should be “eradicated from American society.”


Lawsuit: Sheriff David Clarke’s jail forced a woman to give birth while in shackles was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

California lawmakers are fighting fees that trap kids in the juvenile justice system

Kids and their families are drowning in debt.

CREDIT: iStock

When kids in California enter the juvenile justice system, their families can end up owing thousands of dollars for court and detention fees, even if they have no ability to pay. While several counties stopped collecting the fees in the past year, a state senate committee is convening next week to consider whether or not all expenses imposed on juveniles and their guardians should be cut statewide.

Under California’s current Government Code, individual counties have authority to charge parents or guardians for the costs of feeding and housing minors in detention, as well as electronic monitors, substance abuse testing, probation, and home supervision. On March 21, the Senate Public Safety Committee is holding a hearing on a bill that would prevent anyone under the age of 21 — and their families — from having to shell out money for involvement in the juvenile justice system. Introduced in January by State Sens. Holly Mitchell (D) and Ricardo Lara (D), the bill would prevent an untold number of people from incurring massive debt in a system that’s intended to be rehabilitative.

“These fees run counter to the overall purpose of a fair juvenile justice system,” Sen. Mitchell told the Chronicle of Social Change. “The primary goal should always be to help juvenile offenders reenter society so they can be productive and successful.”

When families can’t cover the expenses in California counties, the money is taken out of what little income they have, according to Kate Weisburd, director of the the East Bay Community Law Center’s Youth Defender Clinic. A state tax franchise board is alerted about the debt for wage garnishment.

But the fees shouldn’t be looked at “in isolation,” Weisburd said. Families also have to pay victim restitution and restitution fines.

“So if families, for example, pay off their court fees first but don’t pay off the victim restitution, then young people can end up staying in the juvenile court system much, much longer,” she said. “It’s just…being in this web of rules for that much longer; subject to searches without warrants, searches without reasonable suspicion, drug testing, curfew — a lot of really intrusive restrictions on their life.”

Young people are more likely to recidivate when crippled by debt.

Those who fall into the debt trap tend to be low-income people of color.

Lawmakers who support the fees say the money is supposed to compensate for what the county spends on a young person in the system. Others have viewed the fees as a deterrent, arguing that parents will work harder to keep their kids out of trouble. But juvenile policy advocates argue that the sums of money earned off of families that can’t pay the fees amount to a tiny fraction of counties’ annual budgets.

In 2016, Santa Clara and Alameda Counties eliminated the fees after researchers discovered how little revenue they were generating up while still punishing youth and their families. Before the policy shift, a young person could die or be found innocent in Alameda County, and the family would still have to pay.

Sens. Mitchell and Lara championed juvenile justice reform in previous years. Last year, Mitchell passed a bill that would require minors in the commercial sex trade be treated as victims of sex trafficking, not charged with a crime. In 2015, Lara passed a bill that makes it free for people under the age of 26 to get their records sealed. Last year, he introduced a bill to ensure juveniles have access to legal counsel prior to speaking with police in custody, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the legislation.

A recent investigation by the Marshall Project revealed the scope of the debt incurred from juvenile system involvement nationwide. Nineteen states have laws on the books that allow the state itself to charge parents, and California is one of 28 states with laws permitting counties to do so. Every state has its own penalties for not paying up, including but not limited to revoking driver’s licenses, deducting money from parents’ wages, and charging interest.

In its 2016 report entitled “Debtors’ Prison for Kids?”, the Juvenile Law Center revealed additional ways that young people suffer from their families’ inability to pay. Many have their detention or probation time extended, as they do in California, while some are sent to a juvenile facility if they weren’t already placed in one. Others are unable to get their records expunged, denied rehabilitative treatment, refused driver’s licenses, and forced to skip school or work because of court appearances. There is also the possibility that they’ll be removed from their families altogether, because parents have their guardianship threatened.

Young people are also more likely to recidivate when crippled by debt.


California lawmakers are fighting fees that trap kids in the juvenile justice system was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Public support for modern-day jails is remarkably low

Very few people believe jail should be punitive.

CREDIT: iStock

Approximately 12 million people are held in jail each year. The majority of them are nonviolent offenders and people detained for their inability to pay bail. But as the country braces for President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ crackdown on crime, few Americans agree with how jails are being used.

According to a new poll conducted by Zogby and released by the MacArthur Foundation on Thursday, the public widely favors alternatives to jail. Out of 3,007 people surveyed across the country, 62 percent of respondents support rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders instead of locking them up to prevent future crimes or using jail as a form of punishment. About 75 percent preferred rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders with mental illness.

The poll also found that few Americans support pretrial detention for people who can’t afford bail. A miniscule 14 percent of respondents said people should be held in pretrial detention for nonviolent offenses that don’t involve property loss. Less than one-third of respondents agreed that a person’s financial woes warrant jail time before a trial. More than two-thirds argued that public safety concerns should impact the decision to lock someone up before they are convicted.

As for people who are convicted of a crime, 18 percent of respondents support jails as a form of punishment, as opposed to 33 percent who believe that jails should be rehabilitative. (Approximately four out of every ten people held in jail in 2013 were there because they had been convicted of a crime according to a report by the Vera Institute of Justice.)

The most incarcerated city in the most incarcerated state considers expanding notorious jail

Altogether, the poll reveals that most jail detainees wouldn’t be doing time if public opinion impacted jail admissions.

In 2015, the Vera Institute concluded that roughly 75 percent of jail detainees are locked up for nonviolent crimes, whether they are convicted or waiting for their trials. On Wednesday, the Prison Policy Initiative revealed that 443,000 out of 630,000 people doing time in local jails haven’t been convicted. Out of the entire jail population, only 178,000 people are accused or convicted of a violent crime.

In 2015, the Urban Institute found that 64 percent of all jail detainees have a history of mental illness. In 2016, a separate study from the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group and the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) found that 40.4 percent of jails in 39 participating states have a “large seriously mentally ill population.” Nearly 96 percent of all the jails involved in the study had “some inmates with serious mental illness.” In 2014, TAC also found that 44 states have more jail detainees with a mental illness than they have in their largest psychiatric hospitals, yet jails have few resources to provide adequate treatment.

Despite the general public’s preference for rehabilitation, the newest public poll comes at a time when the national jail population is growing and, under a “law and order” presidential administration, poised to expand even more in the near future.


Public support for modern-day jails is remarkably low was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Hundreds of kids have already been shot this year

That’s nine children per day.

NRA Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre listens at right as President Donald Trump speaks. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Today is the 71st day of the year, and 685 children and teenagers have already been shot since January 1.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a national database of fatal and nonfatal shootings, 108 children aged 0 to 11 and 577 teenagers aged 12 to 17 were injured or killed by a gun this year. That means, on average, nine young people have been shot per day so far this year.

Altogether, there have been 11,250 gun incidents across the country, resulting in more than 2,870 deaths and over 5,550 injuries.

The statistics paint a bleak picture of gun violence in the U.S. at a time when President Donald Trump is expanding gun rights for people whose access to firearms was restricted under his predecessor. Reversing a decades-long FBI policy that prevented people with outstanding warrants from purchasing guns, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced last month that people with arrest warrants can now purchase guns in the state the warrant was issued. The DOJ also scrapped background checks for people with severe mental illnesses.

Gun violence against children is also happening at a time when Trump is working with the Congress to arm school teachers, despite evidence that the presence of more guns makes people less safe, very few shootings happen at K-12 schools, and gunmen don’t typically strike gun-free school zones.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the largest gun lobby in the country, has positioned itself as a pro-Trump “counter resistance” force.

Within days of the gun rights expansions in February, the NRA released an ad starring Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, which claims that Trump “has no more powerful ally than the NRA.” The ad features clips of anti-Trump protests and anti-Trump lawmakers and pundits before the words “we fight back” flash onscreen.


Hundreds of kids have already been shot this year was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Here’s a list of dumb things men in power around the world have actually said about women

Men, please learn something from this.

Turkey President Recep Tayyip, South Africa President Jacob Zuma, and President Donald Trump. CREDIT: AP Photo/Adam Peck

There are few universal truths, but one thing is for certain: women around the globe are still governed by leaders who think less of them. You would guess that lawmakers would be more educated about half of the world’s population, or, at the very least, set their biases aside while leading.

That is not the case.

As women around the world strike in solidarity in honor of International Women’s Day, here is a glimpse of some of the ridiculous, misogynistic comments that presidents and other influential legislators have openly made about women in the past year (in no particular order):

President Donald Trump, USA

We don’t even need to talk about THAT video from 2005. There is plenty of recent material to choose from.

There was that time he called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman,” and that time he said nobody would vote for Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina because of her face, or that other time he slut-shamed and commented on Miss Universe contestant Alicia Machado’s weight. We’ll just go with this:

President Jacob Zuma, South Africa

AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Zuma has a long history of public sexism. Back in 2006, he said Zulu women accuse men who try to leave them of rape. In 2012, he said daughters who don’t get married “in itself is a problem in society.” But one year ago, he had some especially interesting words for a group of female reporters.

According to Zuma, his bodyguards liked the way the journalists looked but couldn’t say so without backlash. “But when men compliment you innocently, you say it’s harassment. You will miss out on good men and marriage,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Sonke Gender Justice immediately pointed out why Zuma’s statement about harassment is particularly problematic in the country he leads: there is an astronomical rate of sexual violence there.

“We are rated the highest in the world in terms of sexual violence against women and children so I think he would be a bit sensitive… I feel that he really ignored and undermined the situation women are in,” said Nonhlanhla Skosana.

President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela

AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

Venezuela has been in an economic crisis for quite some time now, and the country’s energy infrastructure is in serious danger. The solution, the president argued, is for women to stop blow-drying their hair unless they are doing so for “special occasions.” He prefers that aesthetic, anyway.

“I always think a woman looks better when she just runs her fingers through her hair and lets it dry naturally. It’s just an idea I have.”

President Rodrigo Duterte, Philippines

Duterte is known for many things, most recently his draconian war on drugs. But he’s also known to say — or do — some pretty sexist things on the job. When he was running for president last April, he was filmed joking about the rape and murder of an Australian woman in 1989. “I was angry she was raped, yes that was one thing. But she was so beautiful, I think the mayor should have been first. What a waste,” he said. He did not apologize, calling it “gutter language.”

After a female senator launched an investigation into the killings of 3,000 people, which may have been tied to Duterte’s war on drugs, he said she was “not only screwing her driver, she was screwing the nation.”

Also, yes, the president did really catcall a female journalist during a press conference last year.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey

CREDIT: Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Press Service, Pool Photo via AP

The Turkish president hasn’t disappointed. In 2014, he dropped this bomb: “You cannot put women and men on an equal footing.” He went on to say that motherhood is important in Islam, and “Feminists don’t understand that, they reject motherhood.”

Here are some other gems from his speech at the Turkey’s Women’s and Democracy Association in 2016:

  1. “Rejecting motherhood means giving up on humanity.”
  2. “I would recommend having at least three children.”
  3. “A woman who says ‘because I am working I will not be a mother’ is actually denying her femininity.”
  4. “A woman who rejects motherhood, who refrains from being around the house, however successful her working life is, is deficient, is incomplete.”

MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke, Poland

A far right member of the European Parliament recently made headlines for arguing that women deserve less money than men. You have to see it to believe it.

He was immediately shut down by MEP Iratxe Garcia-Perez of Spain. He was even scorned by notoriously sexist Piers Morgan.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Pakistan

AP Photo/B.K. Bangash

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best not to insult a female colleague about her appearance. Asif, like Trump, missed that memo.

During a National Assembly meeting last June, he compared Shireen Mazari, another member of the lawmaking body, to a vehicle. “Someone make this tractor trolley keep quiet.”

“It will be better if you first transform your masculine voice into a more feminine one,” Asif continued. Mazari asked for an apology during the assembly, but he refused to give one.

President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria

In October, Buhari had some choice (very public) words for his wife, who had said she may not vote for her husband again. Making matters worse, he was doing a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the time.

“I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other rooms,” he said, at which point Merkel reportedly glared at him. He went on to say that he possessed “superior knowledge” compared to his wife.

Parliamentarian Sharad Yadav, India

CREDIT: YouTube

In 2015, Yadav came under heavy fire for racist and sexist remarks about women’s bodies. “The women of the south are dark but they are as beautiful as their bodies…We don’t see it here. They know dance,” he said.

You think he may have learned something, for all the criticism he received. He did not.

In January, he urged people to vote by comparing it to violating a “daughter’s honor.”

“It is very important to educate people in a big way about how the ballot paper works. The honor of being able to cast a vote is a much bigger honor than your daughter’s honor,” he said. “If a daughter’s honor is violated, her neighborhood and her village lose their honor, but if a vote is sold, it is the country’s honor that goes. All our dreams for the future evaporate.”


Here’s a list of dumb things men in power around the world have actually said about women was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Trans women of color are missing from the conversation about transphobia

“When we die, folks barely flinch.”

The seven transgender women of color killed this year. CREDIT: Facebook/GoFundMe/Twitter/ThinkProgress

On February 19, 18-year-old Jaquarrius Holland died of a gunshot to the head in Monroe, Louisiana, after a verbal altercation. But it took over a week for people to realize another Black trans woman had been murdered because reports about Holland repeatedly misgendered her.

By the time the news caught the attention of national media, it became clear that three Black trans woman had been murdered in Louisiana in the span of just nine days.

Holland was the first one killed. Six days later, Chyna Doll Dupree was shot multiple times in New Orleans while visiting the city for Mardi Gras. Two days after that, Ciara McElveen was stabbed and dragged from a car in New Orleans’ 7th Ward.

Altogether, seven trans women of color have been murdered so far in 2017.

“We have to come together and try to create safe spaces,” Co’Bella, a Black trans woman in New Orleans, told ThinkProgress. “It’s not just New Orleans. It’s a national problem.”

Violence against women of color is far from a new phenomenon. Twenty-seven trans women were killed in 2016 — a record high — and almost all of the victims were women of color. Of the 16 trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) people killed in 2015, 13 were trans women of color. In 2014, only one of the 11 trans women killed was white. The FBI reported that violent hate crimes against people targeted because of their gender identities skyrocketed between 2013 and 2015.

But as trans women of color fight to survive, their voices are noticeably absent from the national conversation about transphobia. And their exclusion leaves room for additional violence to occur.

We personalize it because that could be us.’

Regardless of where the killings happen, the spate of murders reverberates throughout trans communities nationwide.

Kimberly of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), which provides services for Black and Latinx trans and GNC women in New York City, told ThinkProgress that trans women of color everywhere are in mourning because they see themselves when they look at the victims.

“A lot of times when we hear about these murders, we personalize it because that could be us,” she said.

Take Francois Pierre, a GNC trans femme who’s working on a graduate degree and interning for the New York City Anti-Violence Project. A native of New Orleans with deep cultural roots to the city, they said the murders devastated them at a time that should have been celebratory.

“I was so angry and overcome by grief, I couldn’t partake in the (Mardi Gras) festivities like the rest of my kin this year,” they told ThinkProgress. “These tragedies really hit home for me and disrupted my sleep most of the week.”

Lourdes Ashley Hunter, the executive director of the Trans Women of Color Collective in Washington, D.C., shares that experience of grief. “It’s been very challenging. These murders are hitting close to home,” she said. “We are seeing more and more young trans people affirm their identity and take agency over that, but we also see that it comes with a very high price.”

Some women are fearful; others are angry.

Stop erasing the humanity of trans people in life and death

“The streets feel so unsafe. Just going home can be dangerous,” Kimberly said.

Despite the toll it’s taking on the community, Kimberly, Lourdes, and Sasha, SRLP’s director of membership, say there are too few medical resources to help trans women of color deal with what’s happening to them.

“There should be mental health support. You would think that people would be sending counselors into certain communities after they’ve encountered violence that’s occurred,” Sasha said. “Trans women have just been left behind in terms of some of these services.”

She pointed out that when trans people do seek professional support, they often have to deal with “harassment and the discrimination” and “the fact that the person is not culturally competent in serving you.”

In the absence of institutional support, trans women of color are forced to rely on their own communities to get by.

“It’s overwhelming to be a trans woman of color and deal with all the things we have to navigate on our own — health care, housing, mental health conditions — along with dealing with the rest of the world that is already very transphobic towards us,” Kimberly said. “Outside of community there’s no safe space.”

A rally supporting transgender youth at the Stonewall National Monument. CREDIT: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

‘No safe space’

Recently, the issue of safe spaces has taken center stage in the context of one venue in particular: the bathroom.

North Carolina sparked national controversy last March when it implemented HB2, also known as the “bathroom bill,” which strictly prohibits trans people from using the bathroom that matches their gender and forces them to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate. The law also prevents state municipalities from enacting non-discrimination ordinances that give trans people more freedoms.

National outcry against HB2 was loud and swift. But similar legislation is currently pending in 12 more states.

The issue is also worsening on the federal level. In February, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — reportedly facing pressure from Attorney General Jeff Sessions — rolled back federal Title IX protections for trans students that were put in place by the Obama administration. The decision opens the door to commit hate crimes against trans kids in schools and deny their use of bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The biggest LGBT rights case since marriage equality just got bigger

From a historical perspective, this fight is a continuation of a centuries-long battle about who has the right to use one of the most basic and fundamental accommodations: the bathroom. Race and sexual identity previously took center stage in the fight for equal rights and equal access, and the trans population is now roped into this long and fraught history.

It’s an important issue. But this lack of access to bathrooms shouldn’t overshadow the other problems currently facing the trans community, according to trans women of color.

“When you look at the news reports that are coming out on CNN or MSNBC and they gotta talk about bathroom bills and they don’t want to talk about the murders of trans women of color or the lack of policies in certain states, that is a distraction from the larger issues,” Sasha said.

Statistics paint a bleak picture of the transphobia in different spaces. Last year, the National Center for Transgender Equality reported the extent to which victims experience violence and discrimination in schools, workplaces, and living spaces. The organization concluded that trans women of color experience discrimination and violence at higher rates than their white counterparts.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents to the organization’s 2015 U.S. Trans Survey (USTS) said they were “verbally harassed, physically attacked, or expelled” in K-12 schools. Fifteen percent of respondents who had a job in 2015 reported they experienced sexual assault, other forms of physical violence, and verbal harassment in the workplace. These percentages were even higher among American Indians, multiracial, and Middle Eastern respondents. And 59 percent, 51 percent, and 49 percent of American Indian, Black, and Middle Eastern trans women, respectively, experienced homelessness because of their gender identity. People of color reported higher rates of being kicked out of their homes than white respondents.

“Bathrooms are important, but how important are they if you’re dead?”

Although intimate partner violence is a problem for all trans people, those who identify as Black, Middle Eastern, and multiracial experienced slightly higher rates of violence than Latinx and white respondents — American Indians even more so.

Trans people are even victimized by the very people whose job it is to protect them: cops. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, they are six times more likely to experience physical police violence than white cisgender people. Mistreatment comes in the form of sexual assault, physical assault, verbal harassment, and sexual exploitation.

“Because of whiteness, people think about bathrooms and education in really particular ways and a lot of people being policed or pushed out of those spaces are folks of color,” Sasha said. “If the only thing people focus on is one institution or one piece of the institution, that’s not a full picture of where the oppression is coming from.”

Violence can happen anywhere, in public or private.

“We’re not fighting for protections for trans people if we’re not creating opportunities [for] trans people of color…to have access to resources,” Lourdes said. “Bathrooms are important, but how important are they if you’re dead?”

Shifting the narrative

Violence against trans people — especially women of color — is compounded by the fact that it’s mostly ignored.

Because society is dominated by patriarchy, as well as by heterosexual and cisgender norms, Francois said, trans people don’t have a place in it. Time and time again, the public response to the murders of trans women confirms this reality.

“Trans lives have no value, which is a continuous lesson I learn. It was evident when many folks — my kin and friends — were unfazed by these trans murders. Many carried on with business as usual,” Francois said. “When we die, folks barely flinch. And that’s if a trans person is lucky enough to make the news and not be misgendered by the media.”

“If there were five or six murders of lesbians or gay men in two months, there would be a national march. There would be a national outcry.”

“The media doesn’t include women of color when we are talking about trans people,” Kimberly added.

The people who spoke to ThinkProgress agree there isn’t enough support from major LGBTQ rights organizations for addressing the murders of trans women of color. While many organizations published statements condemning the recent violence, Sasha said they haven’t established “actionable steps” with groups like SRLP that work closely with trans people of color and know firsthand what the community needs.

Those affected by the violence appreciate written shows of solidarity, but don’t want support to be “superficial,” Sasha said.

The real threat of suicide contagion under a Trump presidency

“The community generally feels very hurt and has been outraged at the lack of support,” Sasha said. “If there were five or six murders of lesbians or gay men in two months, there would be a national march. There would be a national outcry.”

Advocates are also grappling with how to make themselves heard in the national conversation about trans rights and transphobia. When these murders are acknowledged in the media, the voices of trans women of color often aren’t included.

“There are certain voices of folks who are impacted by this violence who are being left out,” Sasha said. “There’s a need and desire from our communities for those folks who are taking our issues and mainstreaming them to stop. We want them to talk about our issues, but not without us. They’re thriving while our folks are still dying.”

‘This needs to come to an end’

In light of hostility from the Trump administration, hate crimes against trans people will likely continue. With the latest victims in mind, trans advocates are committed to creating therapeutic safe spaces — and opportunities — for the people in their communities. They say listening and responding to the needs of people most impacted by violence and discrimination is critical.

In New Orleans, activists are trying to help people grieve while looking at some of the big picture issues contributing to the profiling and killing of trans women. Co’Bella, for instance, is heavily involved in local organizing as a member of BreakOUT New Orleans, a local organization dedicated to “ending the criminalization of LGBTQ youth” in the city.

“What I’ve been hearing is we need jobs and housing and education and resources,” Co’Bella said of her community. “What I’m focused on is getting people schools and jobs. That’s what everybody should be focused on: getting liberated and getting everyone else liberated around them.”

The advocates who spoke to ThinkProgress all wish the killings of trans women of color would generate more rage. But it’s hard to stay optimistic about that becoming a reality anytime soon, according to Francois.

“How can trans folks expect to be respected and valued when they’re dead, when we are not even humanized and granted such courtesies when we are alive?” they said.

Lourdes is frustrated that the trans community is still begging for more recognition of this issue. She said it shouldn’t be up to trans women of color to plead with white people and cis people for help.

“We shouldn’t have to reach out to white people to help us. They created transphobia. They created white supremacy. Black trans women didn’t create any of this, so the onus is not on us to reach out to them,” she said.


Trans women of color are missing from the conversation about transphobia was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

‘Fight for 15’ organizers file lawsuit against City of Memphis over police surveillance

More than 80 were added to a City Hall blacklist.

Fight for 15 protest outside a South Memphis McDonalds. CREDIT: Show-Me $15 Facebook

Memphis Police Department (MPD) officers repeatedly photographed, filmed, trailed, and intimidated Fight for 15 organizers, according to a federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday. The plaintiffs argue they were also smeared by government officials who added their names to a blacklist that was published by local news outlets.

Members of the Mid-South Organizing Committee (MSOC), which is involved in the Fight for 15 fair wage movement, claim that they have been victims of harassment and surveillance for many years. Police not only appear at lawful protests that involve fast food employees and homecare workers, they say, but also bully them by taking pictures and videos of their activities, threatening to arrest them, stalking them around the city in police vehicles, and following them to their homes.

The lawsuit points to multiple interactions between officers and demonstrators. One of the plaintiffs, Antonio Blair Cathey, claims he was repeatedly informed by an officer that McDonald’s granted the MPD permission to arrest protesters on different occasions. During two permitted events in 2015, the MPD is said to have photographed participants and their license plates. After a national day of striking last April, “multiple MPD squad cars” allegedly followed a van of participants as they were being dropped off in various parts of the city, while other officers used iPads to film protests.

MSOC plaintiffs say city officials also slandered their names in February by placing them on a “blacklist” of people who cannot enter City Hall without an armed security guard escorting them, even though they do not have criminal histories. The list included 84 names and was shared by “various media outlets,” according to the lawsuit. Protesters were removed from the list after the lawsuit was filed.

Each method of intimidation is “aimed at discouraging MSOC and its members and volunteers from engaging in protected free speech activities,” the lawsuit filed in the district court for Western Tennessee states.

The plaintiffs also argue that the illegal activity is a direct violation of a consent decree that went into effect in 1978, which proclaimed “the City of Memphis shall not, at any lawful meeting or demonstration, for the purpose of chilling the exercise of First Amendment rights or for the purpose of maintaining a record, record the name of or photography any person in attendance, or record the automobile license plate numbers of any person in attendance.”

Four days after the blacklist went public, MPD Director Michael Rallings declared that the list was “about safety.”

Bruce McCullen, the city’s chief legal officer, reiterated that the list was safety-related. “It was for security reasons — what MPD felt they needed to do for security, safety — for the people employed at City Hall,” he said.

Fast Food Workers Are Starting To Win The Fight For $15. What About The Battle For Union Rights?

But activists are concerned for their own safety.

Ashley Cathey, a Church’s Chicken employee, Fight for 15 organizer, and sister of plaintiff Antonio Cathey, told ThinkProgress that she’s afraid of the officers.

“They have squad cars follow us from the time we get up to the time we end our action,” she said. “[It] gets to the point where the workers don’t even want to come out and participate ‘cause they’re afraid of what the police gonna do to us.”

Although she isn’t named in the lawsuit, she said recent police intimidation during and after a team meeting was the catalyst for taking legal action. She said squad cars were stationed outside of the organizers’ office and along the street. Once the meeting ended, participants were followed all the way home and officers slammed some of them to the ground.

Karen Rudolph, a representative for the MPD said she is unaware of complaints made by Fight for 15 protesters regarding physical violence used by specific officers. She declined to comment on allegations related to the pending lawsuit.

Public slander is another problem, Cathey said. “They always try to portray us to the community that we are gangbangers. I’ve never seen us have a violent movement. Not one time have we had a violent protest.”

Multiple arrests of Fight for 15 protesters, who seek a $15 minimum wage for fast food, healthcare, and other low-wage employees, have occurred in major U.S. cities in the past year, including New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.


‘Fight for 15’ organizers file lawsuit against City of Memphis over police surveillance was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jewish donors raise money to repair Tampa mosque

It’s another show of interfaith solidarity.

CREDIT: LaunchGood

Days after Muslim activists created a fundraising campaign to repair decimated Jewish headstones in St. Louis, Missouri, Jewish donors are returning the favor by contributing funds to a repair a mosque in Florida.

Soon after the Daarus Salaam Mosque in Tampa was set on fire last Friday, a Muslim man named Adeel Karim created a LaunchGood fundraising campaign to raise $40,000 for repairs for water damage caused when the blaze was put out. Within days, the campaign had raised over $60,000, thanks to an outpouring of support from Jewish donors. Karim discovered their generosity when he realized people were giving what appeared to be random sums of money.

“I couldn’t understand why people were donating in what seemed like weird amounts to the cause. There are sums of 18, 36, 72.00 dollars etc. then I figured out after clicking on the names Avi, Cohen, Gold-stein, Rubin, Fisher,” he explained in a recent Facebook post. “Jews donate in multiples of 18 as a form of what is called ‘Chai’. It wishes the recipient a long life.”

Muslims raise over $65,000 to repair desecrated Jewish cemetery

According to Karim’s campaign page, the mosque regularly hosts interfaith events for the community. The speedy donations are yet another sign that solidarity between Muslims and Jews is on the rise. Members of both faiths are forming alliances in response to the documented rise of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia nationwide.

Hate crimes against both groups have skyrocketed in the past year, due in large part to President Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric. Just over one month into his presidency, several mosques have gone up in flames, Jewish schools and community centers have received an alarming number of bomb threats, and Jewish tombstones have been decimated in at least two cities.

Trump is noticeably quiet about racially-motivated attacks, but Muslims and Jews are stepping up to help each other. Within 24 hours of news reports about damaged graves in St. Louis, Muslims donated more than $65,000 for repairs — triple the amount that was asked for. The total raised now exceeds $140,000.


Jewish donors raise money to repair Tampa mosque was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jeff Sessions praised black history while rolling back civil rights protections

He was once considered too racist to be a federal judge.

Jeff Sessions makes first speech as Attorney General. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a history of opposing laws and policies that would benefit black people. But that didn’t stop him from headlining the Justice Department’s Black History Month celebration Tuesday morning.

During his speech, Sessions praised decades of progress for black Americans and credited the department for assisting their advancement in society. He discussed the racism he witnessed growing up in Alabama, and said “black history is American history.”

“Equal justice must prevail in every corner of this nation,” he said according to prepared remarks. “There remains, of course, much to be done. We must also know that real reconciliation goes beyond law. It lives in the heart and the soul — as Lincoln and Dr. King so well knew.”

But there is little evidence to suggest that Sessions is an ally to black people.

Civil rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr. Coretta Scott King once wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee about how disastrous Sessions would be as a federal judge in Alabama, based on his attacks on black voters.

“Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship,” she wrote. “In fact, Mr. Sessions sought to punish older black civil rights activists, advisers and colleagues of my husband, who had been key figures in the civil rights movement in the 1960's.”

Despite his racist past, Jeff Sessions confirmed as attorney general

Indeed, Sessions prosecuted civil rights activists who had registered black absentee voters in the 1980s. When those voters influenced local elections, Sessions accused the activists of voter fraud and called for an FBI investigation in 1984.

In 1985, Sessions was ultimately considered too racist to be a federal judge, based in part on his prosecution of that witch hunt. Allegations that he called his black assistant “boy,” said the NAACP was “un-American,” and told a white civil rights lawyer that he was a “disgrace to his race” also played a role.

Thereafter, he regularly blocked black judges from sitting on federal benches in his role as an Alabama senator.

“The senator has a problem putting African Americans on the federal bench in Alabama,” Birmingham attorney John Saxon told Mother Jones. “And the people need to know that.”

More recently, as Attorney General, Sessions has shown little movement on voting rights. On Monday he reversed the Justice Department’s position that a strict voter ID law in Texas discriminates against voters of color — a stance that a notoriously conservative federal appeals court agreed with.

He also questioned the validity of Justice Department investigations of police departments that routinely brutalize black people. On Monday, the Huffington Post asked if he had read some of the investigations, and he implied that they do not raise valid concerns, even though he hasn’t read them.

“I have not read those reports, frankly,” he said. “We’ve had summaries of them, and some of it was pretty anecdotal, and not so scientifically based.”

Sessions is also opposed to bipartisan criminal justice reforms, including sentencing that would drastically reduce the black prison population. He is a staunch supporter of civil asset forfeiture, which strips people of their property and disproportionately impacts black people and Latino Americans. And he’s close to cracking down on states where marijuana use is legal.

“So let’s do our jobs. Let’s fulfill our duty,” reads his Black History Month speech. “And, as we do so, let us perform in a way that builds harmony, unity and justice.”


Jeff Sessions praised black history while rolling back civil rights protections was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.