8 Years In Prison for a Harmless Prank? Handcuffed for Doodling? The Increasing Criminalization of Students
Young people are being suspended, expelled and charged with criminal offenses for behavior as innocuous as doodling on a desk.
From the page: “…. Spitballs and LEGOs and Tantrums, Oh My!
In December 2010, 14-year-old Andrew Mikel used a plastic tube to blow plastic pellets at fellow students in Spotsylvania High School during lunch period. School officials expelled him for possession and use of a weapon, and they called a deputy sheriff to the scene who charged him with three counts of misdemeanor assault. E-mail traffic among school officials showed they ruled that Mikel’s plastic tube met the definition of a projectile weapon because it was “used to intimidate, threaten or harm others.” Mikel is being home-schooled while his case is under appeal.
Even elementary schools have been affected.
Last February, 9-year-old Patrick Timoney, a fourth-grader at PS 52 in Staten Island, NY, was almost suspended when he brought some of his Legos to school to show his friends during lunch. One of his toys was a Lego policeman holding a 2-inch plastic gun. Because the school has a no-tolerance policy when it comes to toy guns, Patrick barely escaped suspension.
In 2009, 6-year-old Zachary Christie faced the wrath of zero-tolerance when he took his new Cub Scout camping utensil to school. He was excited to show it off at lunch, but based on the code of conduct for the Christina School District, where Zachary is a first-grader, school officials had no choice but to suspend him because, “regardless of possessor’s intent,” knives are banned. (The multi-use tool serves as a knife, fork and spoon.) School officials concluded he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary was suspended and faced 45 days in the district’s reform school.
In Palm Beach, Florida, a 14-year-old disabled student was sent to the principal’s office for allegedly stealing $2 from another student. The principal referred the child to the police, where he was charged with strong-armed robbery, and held for six weeks in an adult jail. When the local media criticized the prosecutor’s decision to file adult felony charges, he responded, “depicting this forcible felony, this strong-arm robbery, in terms as though it were no more than a $2 shoplifting fosters and promotes violence in our schools.” Charges were dropped by the prosecution when a “60 Minutes” television crew showed up at the boy’s hearing.
A 12-year-old in Louisiana who was diagnosed with a hyperactive disorder was suspended for two days after telling his friends in a food line “I’m gonna get you” if they ate all the potatoes. The police then charged the boy with making “terroristic threats” and he was incarcerated for two weeks while awaiting trial.
In 2007, 13-year-old Chelsea Fraser wrote “Okay” on her desk, and police handcuffed and arrested her. She was one of four middle-school students arrested, handcuffed and paraded in front of their classmates before being taken by police van to a stationhouse, where they were shackled to a pole and interrogated for hours.
Three years later at Forest Hills Junior High School in Forest Hills, New York, 12-year-old Alexa Gonzalez was punished for doodling “I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here 2/1/10 :)” on her desk. The seventh-grader was perp-walked out of the school in front of her classmates with her hands cuffed behind her back and escorted to the police station where she was handcuffed to a pole for more than two hours.
In April 2005, a 5-year-old girl at a St. Petersburg, Florida kindergarten was arrested, handcuffed and shackled by police officers, then confined to a police cruiser for three hours. The Advancement Project explains that her “crime” was not wielding a weapon or threatening to harm other children; she threw a temper tantrum, and school officials responded by calling the police….”