Sunday, November 18, 2012

Elementary Schoolers' Arrests In Florida Alarm Justice Officials

This from the Huffington Post:
Janay Jelks loves singing, coloring and Dora the Explorer. She's 12 but has the mental age of a preschooler.She also has a felony rap sheet.
Janay has been arrested three times since September at Cherokee School, an Orlando elementary school designed to be a safe place for the youngest Orange County students with severe emotional problems.

She's not alone. Since the start of school in August, police have arrested 11 students a total of 14 times at Cherokee, which has an enrollment of 57.

That's nearly one in five students.

The spate of arrests, which includes at least nine felony charges, has alarmed Orange County's juvenile-justice community and prompted a judge to meet with the school's principal.

It is "ridiculous" to criminalize students for behavior that is tied to their disabilities, said Olga Telleria-Khoudmi, juvenile-division chief for the Orange/Osceola Public Defender's Office.

"That's not the way to deal with these kids," Telleria-Khoudmi said, noting an arrest can follow children for the rest of their lives. "You have to have a little bit of tolerance. ...You're not dealing with a regular school."

Janay was charged with felonies for poking a police officer with her finger, throwing small plastic blocks in her teacher's face and hitting her principal, according to interviews and arrest affidavits. In Florida, any battery on a teacher or law-enforcement officer is a felony, even if there is no injury.

"I'm just really shocked. Really? Felony assault?" said Letasha Brown, Janay's mother.

Circuit Judge Alicia Latimore, one of three judges who handles juvenile-delinquency cases in Orange, was so concerned about the arrests that she visited Cherokee's campus this fall.

The arrests at Cherokee outnumber the arrests of students at Orange's 121 other public elementary schools combined.

"I'm not saying that children should be able to hit or batter freely, but it should be taken into account that children are placed in Cherokee for a reason," Latimore said.

Most of the cases involved a single slap, punch or kick and did not cause injury, she said.

"They have the right to contact law enforcement," Latimore added. "I just wish the staff and the teachers would not choose to do it so frequently." ...


Anonymous said...

How ironic, we want to create all these laws and regulations for public sector accountability but there is a parental expectation that they not be invoked when it involves their child harming one of these employees.

Sorry, but I don't think any of these folks sign on to be kicked or hit by students. The courts have always been quick to point out that a kid's constitutional rights don't stop at the school door and parents have been equally quick to engage the judicial system when they feel their child has been misaligned by the system. So why should we think that teachers would not expect the same protection? When the kid leaves the school building and throws a punch or kicks a citizen at the store, you can forget about any sort of IEP exemption or for the courts to develop a BIP for the kid - they are going to be charged with an assault. So why do we think schools or the people who work in them have any lower status or right to the same protections?

Anonymous said...

Ditto. I don't believe a disability excuses assault or murder regardless of age or place.