Recently, a six-year-old Indiana boy was arrested after kicking his principal in the leg and threatening to kill him. The child, who had been suspended before for kicking and biting, was taken to a local police station and charged with battery and intimidation. Instead of calling the boy’s parents when he began to act out, school officials called the cops, claiming that putting the child in the system was the best option.
The county’s police lieutenant agreed with the school, adding “putting him into the system can open up avenues perhaps the parents don’t have.”
But is he right?
While some children do indeed get the extra support they need from being placed into the juvenile justice system, many more are stamped with the “undesirable” label and left to fend for themselves. Moreover, why is the only other support for schools and families to incarcerate an unruly kid?
While violent crimes across the board have continued to decline, many are still in favor of getting “tougher” on youth. And instead of working with families, social services, and other counseling agencies, many schools are simply turning to the police when students act out.
Earlier this year The Guardian took a look at the growing trend in US schools to use law enforcement to policing campuses, and found that many students are racking up records for things such as food fights, being late to class, and classroom disruption.
The Guardian reports:
In 2010, the police gave close to 300,000 “Class C misdemeanour” tickets to children as young as six in Texas for offences in and out of school, which result in fines, community service and even prison time. What was once handled with a telling-off by the teacher or a call to parents can now result in arrest and a record that may cost a young person a place in college or a job years later.
Unfortunately for some students—especially males of color—their “acting out” is often judged more harshly than their peers and they are not only suspended at higher rates (for the same offensives), but they are also incarcerated at higher rates as well, which begs the question—do schools and families really know how to give children they support they need?
What I noticed over the years while I was teaching is that many times students act out not because they are just “bad,” but rather they are trying to mask another issue. While I taught seventh and eighth grade English, often times my coworkers would complain about certain kids and tell me I needed to “watch out for that one,” but what I realized was that more often than not “that one” just needed some extra help—either academically or emotionally.
In this day and age our schools are under pressure to perform despite being under-funded, and many times, understaffed. But when a child acts out—even physically—should the first response always be to call the police or are there other measures that can be taken to ensure everyone’s safety without scarring the child with a record?
What do you think, Clutchettes and Gents?