The United States’ “Criminal” Youth


“Readers will see how out-of-school suspensions disproportionately impact instruction for children of color and students with disabilities in each state.” “Nationally, school children lost over 11 million days of instruction (11,360,004) as a result of out-of-school suspension.” These are just a few of the quotes found in a 2019 ACLU report. The hits keep on coming when the same report notes “nationally, Black students lost 66 days of instruction compared to just 14 days for White students. This difference of 52 more days lost for Blacks than Whites means that Blacks lost nearly 5 times the amount of instruction as Whites.” In North Carolina, Native American Students lost 77 days per 100 enrolled. In New Hampshire it was Latino youth were most affected – losing 55 days of instruction per 100 enrolled.

Gone are the days of “Campus Cops” shaking their firsts as high school students go off campus for lunch to the forbidden Taco Bell. There are no more funny rom-com scenes, as found in “Ten Things I Hate About You” where a lovable, silly high school security officer chases the students while they profess love to one another. Rather, there are full fledged SRO (School Resource Officers) whom are often armed to help “keep the kids in line.”

But what are the real benefits to having these armed officers in school? Given the above statistics it certainly isn’t keeping the kids in the school. Looking to Montana we find that while Native American girls make up just 12% of the enrolled students – yet they were 62% of the arrests. Indeed, it would appear that our society holds having cops on campus as more important than school nurses – roughly 3 million students are on campus with cops, but no school nurses.

What are these youths doing that are worthy of criminal charges? Throwing a paper airplanekicking a trashcan, and wearing sagging pants. In Virginia, a middle school student threw a baby carrot at her teacher, she was charged with assault and battery with a weapon.

Previous posts have outlined the issues with prosecutorial discretion. Often a prosecutor will choose to be more lenient when someone is a first time offender. But for some students, they have a record before even leaving high school – which doesn’t set them up for success, and certainly doesn’t inspire many prosecutors to be more lenient. Instead of ‘setting these kids up for success,’ we’re setting them up to fail.


Suggested Readings

http://www.justicepolicy.org/news/8775

https://www.aclu.org/issues/juvenile-justice/school-prison-pipeline/bullies-blue

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