On January 1st, 2017, a Missouri new state statute took effect. Under this new law, school officials will no longer treat schoolyard scuffles as minor offenses. Students may now be charged with a felony for assault, regardless of their age or grade.
This is a preposterous policy proposed by heartless, unrealistic, out-of-touch authoritarians; it only perpetuates and fortifies the #SchoolToPrisonPipeline. And (newsflash) it would apply to low-income rural white kids just as it would urban African American kids.
So often, especially with young/adolescent kids, it’s hard to tell who actually initiated the fight or caused an injury. (Parents with multiple kids can attest to the difficulty of determining “who started it”. Imagine being a teacher with 20+ kids to keep an eye on, their guilt or innocence entirely in your hands.)
Some of these students are defending themselves against bullies; others are coping with stress-related behavioral problems caused by circumstances beyond their control, such as divorce or the death of a family member.
This policy seems to leave little room for due process, and even if a student manages to overcome their hurdles to graduate, he or she will leave high school with a felony?!
The point-fingers-and-penalize approach is administrative overreach far beyond the scope of our schools’ primary purpose: informing and uplifting our kids. Doling out felonies is NOT education.
If school administrators want to get more involved, they should offer counseling and conflict resolution, NOT stricter punishments that leave a lasting negative impact, effectively ruining the lives of the very children we trust them to protect.
#VoteVowell on April 4th.
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