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Archive for August 5, 2009

Gone Wild: Kids…Or The System?

The 10-year-old boy was interrogated for 2-hours, at school, (a parent wasn’t there), for drawing a picture in art class that showed a person sitting in a safe with dynamite. He used a caption that said: “I have a bomb on me.”

Officials in Peabody, Massachusetts, treated it as a serious crime, and nearly evacuated the school. (December 2007).

Police and school officials (already on edge after three bomb threats weeks earlier) questioned the 10-year-old. His parents were not present. Police decided NOT to arrest the boy. He got a 2-day suspension.

The town’s lawyer says the cop who saw the drawing thought it was a crime. He says under state law, it’s illegal to communicate a threat which causes evacuation or serious disruption of a school.

The kid argues that he did not say that a particular place was going to blow up!
His mom says the school copped out. It took the easy way out by leaving the decision-making up to police.

According to the local station that carried the story, kids are now getting arrested for offenses that used to lead to detentions. It cited another Massachusetts student who was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, last spring. He threw an apple! That case was pending in court.

One judge interviewed says these types of cases are getting out of hand…and he’s annoyed. As the judge puts it, HE IS NOT a school principal!

I decided to check online and see if we were just more paranoid here in Massachusetts…or if such cases were equally prevalent in Blue States.

A New York Times article seems to suggest that calling in police to deal with unruly students…seems to be turning into a national trend.

For instance, The N.Y. Times reports that a 14-year-old girl’s low-cut midriff top in Toledo/Ohio violated the school’s dress code, but she refused to change. So the cop assigned to the school handcuffed her, put her in a police car and took her to a juvenile detention center courthouse. She was booked on a misdemeanor charge and placed in a holding cell for several hours.

The paper says more than two dozen students in Toledo were arrested in school in October for offenses like being loud and disruptive, cursing at school officials, shouting at classmates and violating the dress code. They had all violated the city’s safe school ordinance.

In cities and suburbs around the country, schools are increasingly sending students into the juvenile justice system for the sort of adolescent misbehavior that used to be handled by school administrators. According to the paper, in Toledo and many other places, the juvenile detention center has become an extension of the principal’s office.

The report says there were nearly 2-thousand such cases in Ohio’s Lucas County in 2002, up from just over a thousand in 2000. And that’s worrying the administrative judge for the Lucas County juvenile court. He says “We’re demonizing children.”

Court officials say most cases involved unruly students. Only a few were for serious incidents like assaulting a teacher or taking a gun to school.

The paper says in Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky and Florida, juvenile court judges are complaining that their courtrooms are at risk of being overwhelmed by student misconduct cases that should be handled in the schools.

Many of the court cases around the country involve special-education students whose behavior is often related to their disabilities.

An 8-year-old boy in a special-education class in Pennsylvania was charged with disorderly conduct this fall for urinating on the classroom floor, throwing his shoes at the ceiling and telling a teacher: ”Kids rule.”

I read online about two elementary school children in Florida (aged 9 and 10) who were arrested and handcuffed at school. They drew a stick figure cartoon showing themselves being violent towards another 10-year old.

Are schools going too far…?

Or are their reactions understandable – given the current climate of school shootings and lock-downs?

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