Only a few short years ago, teens caught skipping class, talking back to a teacher, or scuffling in the hallways ended up in after-school detention. Today that same teenager stands a good stance of ending up in police custody for engaging in any of those behaviors, as well as many other behaviors which were once considered normal teenage shenanigans. In 2013, Stephen Perry, seventeen at the time, was trying to avoid a water balloon fight when he found himself being arrested, along with others who had actively participated in the fight. After being taken into custody, Perry willingly handed over a small pocketknife to the police, and was subsequently charged with weapons possession.
A minor hallway altercation resulted in 12-year old Rashe France being arrested and charged with disturbing the peace in Southaven, Mississippi. A Texas student received a misdemeanor ticket from the police for wearing an excessive amount of perfume, and a teenager in Wisconsin was booked and charged with theft after a classmate receiving free lunches shared chicken nuggets with the student. Behaviors once routinely handled by parents or school officials—including such fairly minor incidents as refusing to follow directions, slamming a door or locker and swearing—are now becoming police matters.
A Massachusetts Report Studies the Problem
A Massachusetts report, titled “Arrested Futures: The Criminalization of School Discipline in Massachusetts’s Three Largest School Districts,” examines this very thing. This report examined school-based arrests in Worcester, Springfield and Boston, finding that relatively minor misbehaviors among teenagers were responsible for the majority of police arrests made at the districts. Major findings of this report included the following:
- The groups of teens most likely to be arrested for disruptive behaviors were African Americans and students with disabilities.
- Children as young as eleven or twelve were subject to arrest for something as minor as a normal childish outburst.
- Schools with permanent police presence had higher arrest rates.
- Arresting teens and children for minor behavior infractions may result in potentially devastating outcomes: a greater likelihood of dropping out school, a greater likelihood of becoming a product of the criminal justice system and reduced employment prospects to name a few.
How Widespread is the Problem?
The U.S. Department of Education reports that over 92,000 students were subject to an in-school arrest during 2012, and 260,000 were “turned over to law enforcement” by the school. Many feel school police should be utilized for campus safety rather than to arrest students for school misbehaviors. Perhaps in response to parental and school official’s concerns regarding violence and drug use at school, more and more police officers are becoming permanent fixtures in the school hallways. A study done by a Harvard researcher and the University of Texas found those students who were arrested in school for a relatively minor infraction had a dismal high school graduation rate of 26%–compared to 64% of students with no school arrest.
The Long-term Consequences of an In-School Arrest
Even when charges are later dropped, these in-school arrest records may haunt students for many years to come. Records are more and more accessible on the Internet, yet may be inaccurate, or incomplete. Employment is often based on a background check, as is renting a home or being admitted to college. Most people are under the false assumption that all juvenile records are sealed, however this is simply not true. In fact, juveniles who have undergone an arrest must request the records be removed or sealed—a process which is extremely complex, varying from state to state. The problem seems to have no easy answer, although many parents are protesting the use of police to handle minor school discipline infractions.
If your child has been arrested for a school altercation in Boulder, contact the Boulder criminal defense lawyers at Steven Louth Law Offices today for a free consultation and review of your case. Call us at (303) 422-2297 to start building a solid defense against these serious criminal charges.