Plastic::Politics::School: Due to a variety of factors, more and more minor infractions are resulting in young children and adolescents being arrested and dumped into the juvenile justice system. [Plastic]
Zero Tolerance equals Zero Brains
Once upon a time, if a child was disruptive in class, he or she would be sent to the principal, who would generally, with the help of the parents, mete out the appropriate punishment. End of case. But due to a variety of factors, more and more minor infractions are resulting in young children and adolescents being arrested and dumped into the juvenile justice system: ‘The idea that you try to find out why somebody did something or give a person a second chance or try to solve a problem in a way that’s not punitive — that’s become almost quaint now,’ states Dr. Laurence Steinberg, professor of psychology at Temple University and the director of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice.
When a 14-year-old girl in Toledo, Ohio, wore a low-cut top in violation of her school’s dress code and refused to cover up, she was handcuffed by city police assigned to the school, booked on a misdemeanor charge, and detained for several hours. She is just one of an increasing number of local cases in which students have been arrested for minor offenses, such as being unruly in class, swearing at school officials, or shouting at classmates. Two middle school boys were arrested for turning off lights in the girls’ bathroom; an 11-year-old girl was arrested for ‘hiding out in the school and not going to class,’ according to the police report. Fred Whitman, the court’s intake officer, contends that only a handful of all the cases involve serious incidents. Juvenile court judges in other states also fear that their venue will be overrun by cases that should be handled by schools. A study by Advancement Project, a civil rights advocacy group, found that there were three times as many juvenile arrests in 2001 in public schools in Miami-Dade County, Florida, than in 1999, sixty percent of which were for ‘simple assaults’ and ‘miscellaneous’ charges.