Diagnosed as autistic, the sixth-grader was being scolded for misbehavior one day and kicked a trash can at Linkhorne Middle School in Lynchburg, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A police officer assigned to the school witnessed the tantrum, and filed a disorderly conduct charge against the sixth grader in juvenile court.
Just weeks later, in November, Kayleb, who is African-American, disobeyed a new rule — this one just for him — that he wait while other kids left class. The principal sent the same school officer to get him.
“He grabbed me and tried to take me to the office,” said Kayleb, a small, bespectacled boy who enjoys science. “I started pushing him away. He slammed me down, and then he handcuffed me.” …
Stacey Doss, Kayleb’s mother and the daughter of a police officer herself, was outraged. Educators stood by, she said, while the cop took her son in handcuffs to juvenile court. The officer filed a second misdemeanor disorderly conduct complaint. And he also submitted another charge, a very grown-up charge for a very small boy: felony assault on a police officer. That charge was filed, Doss said the officer told her, because Kayleb “fought back.”
“I thought in my mind — Kayleb is 11,” Doss said. “He is autistic. He doesn’t fully understand how to differentiate the roles of certain people.”
To Doss’ shock, a Lynchburg juvenile court judge found Kayleb guilty of all those charges in early April, which could prove life-altering…
Doss said the judge had a deputy show him a cell, and told him if he gets into trouble again he could go straight to youth detention.
“He said that Kayleb had been handled with kid gloves. And that he understood that Kayleb had special needs, but that he needed to ‘man up,’ that he needed to behave better,” Doss said. “And that he needed to start controlling himself or that eventually they would start controlling him.” …
But certain schools continue to allow police who patrol their hallways to serve as de facto disciplinarians, with arrest powers, for all manner of indiscretions that a generation ago would almost certainly have been handled by teachers or principals…
More than half the students sent to court were black, even though black students are only 26 percent of enrollment. And almost half of the students issued criminal complaints were children 14 or younger… Chesterfield mother Lelia Grant argues that schools and police are prematurely treating kids like criminals.
When I went to school, I don’t ever remember seeing a police officer on the grounds. It’s no wonder that kids today are suffering from more mental illnesses — traumas like this are creating a whole generation of kids that suffer from PTSD, depression, and addiction. Why are parents putting up with this? For safety reasons? Don’t they realize the long-term harm it’s doing?
U.S. Department of Education data shows that in most states black, Latino and special-needs (disabled) students get referred to police and courts disproportionately. The volume of referrals from schools is fueling arguments that zero tolerance policies and school policing are creating a “school-to-prison pipeline” by criminalizing behavior better dealt with outside courts. The Center for Public Integrity ranked states by their rate of referral for every 1,000 students.
The drug war has now permeated our schools. We know that the drug war is mostly about race, and that even though whites use drugs more than people of color, our prisons are full of blacks and Latinos. These statistics show that this war also includes the disabled. And New Mexico is #11 on this list, another mark against this state.