Should Kids Who Lose MetroCards Not Be Allowed To Go Home?

Should Kids Who Lose MetroCards Not Be Allowed To Go Home?

A recent video circulating on twitter shows an NYPD officer shoving a high school student on her way home from the Avenue M station on the Q line. The incident took place last Tuesday, February 4, between 3:30 pm and 4:00 pm, says Anthony Beckford of Black Lives Matter Brooklyn Chapter who tweeted the original video.

The video captures a confrontation between a female NYPD officer and a black teenager. The officer blocks the girl’s path through an open subway gate. The teen asks why she can’t pass when allegedly others had just gone through.

“I allowed them, they didn’t jump the turnstile,” the officer can be heard says, as she moves closer to the girl and starts shoving her back through the gate.

“Please don’t touch me,” the girl says.

“Then walk out,” the cop responds, shoving her a number of times until she is pushed out of the station.

“Listen! Don’t touch me!” the girl screams once out on the street. “Are you serious? I’m trying to go home! You’re saying I can’t go home? Are you insane?”

At that point rather than helping to resolve the situation and help the kid get home – the cop seems to threaten to arrest the girl, who responds: “You’re going to arrest me for trying to go home? I’m not doing anything.”

The officer tells the teen “You are no longer welcome in the subway,” as the video cuts out.

There are many details that are unclear – we don’t have the full video of the incident and full accounting of who said what, and why she did not have her MetroCard – but that does not change the basics.  The student’s sin was not having a MetroCard to swipe on her way home from Murrow, one of several high schools that stop serves. Department of Education provides almost all students with free MetroCards that give them three free rides each school day so they can navigate their commutes to and from school and afterschool activities. Only kids who love within half a mile of their school or get bussed don’t get a card.

Rather than de-escalating the situation and, perhaps, helping the student get home without a MetroCard, the officer made a choice to shove the girl out of the station.  I don’t know how she got home. But I do know that if that was my kid, I’d be livid.

Grownups are supposed to be someone kids can look up to and turn to for help. What is a child to do when they lose or forget a card – which most of them will do at one time or another? MTA says they should return to school to get a new one, but that is not always possible.

“Student MetroCards are distributed by the NYC Dept. of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation. If a student loses a MetroCard they should let an administrator at the school know as the DOE has spares for this purpose,” their spokesperson emailed us.

More realistically, if the student were to approach the station agent, show their school ID and explain the situation, they would be allowed to pass – we asked a few middle and high-schoolers who’ve been through it. A bus driver will likely wave a student without a MetroCard through – it’s not a situation a kid wants to be in, and most grownups understand that.

So we asked the NYPD:

  1. Did the officer follow protocol on how to interact with a minor in such a situation?
  2. What is the protocol when a school-aged child is not in possession of their school metro card to get home?
  3. Avenue M has large groups of students traveling together to and from school – if the rest of the group were allowed to pass through the gates, why was this student not allowed to pass?
  4. Was the officer disciplined?

NYPD issued the following statement, without answering any of the questions, despite repeated requests:

“The video posted on social media did not record the entire incident, specifically it did not show the female attempt to  jump over the turnstile without paying the fare. As a result of this action, the officer approached the female and instructed her to properly enter the system by swiping a MetroCard. She was asked multiple times to pay the fare which she refused and was physically removed from the Transit System. A summons was not issued in regard.”

Are we supposed to be grateful she was not arrested, when – most likely – we as taxpayers had already paid for her free ride?

As a parent of school-aged children who rely on taking a bus to train to get to school and home, I’m going to put a few dollars on a spare, tucked into the backpack – a privilege I know not every parent can afford. I also sincerely hope NYPD can provide better guidance to their officers on how to de-escalate situations and interact with minors so that no child has to encounter a situation like the one in the video on their way home – MetroCard or no MetroCard.

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