In another disturbing case of the school-to-prison pipeline, the Associated Press is reporting that a 13-year-old middle school student in Albuquerque, New Mexico was handcuffed and hauled off to juvenile detention for “burping audibly” in class.
According to a lawsuit filed by civil rights attorney Shannon Kennedy, only days before this incident, the same student was forced to be strip searched for suspicion of marijuana possession. After five adults inspected the boy in his underwear, nothing was found and he was never charged.
To make matters worse, the parents of the burping bandit were not even notified by the school when he was taken into custody, leaving them to worry for his safety when he didn’t return home from school.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident for the Albuquerque school system where in the previous year Kennedy won a settlement against the district when they arrested a girl who “didn’t want to sit by the stinky boy in class.”
Kennedy reports that “200 school kids have been handcuffed and arrested in the last three years for non-violent misdemeanors,” and that she has several cases she is preparing for the mistreatment of students by Albuquerque school officials and law enforcement enablers.
ACLU describes the school-to-prison pipeline as:
a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished and pushed out. ‘Zero-tolerance’ policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules.
The American Bar Association has condemned these zero-tolerance policies as inherently unjust:
zero tolerance has become a one-size-fits-all solution to all the problems that schools confront. It has redefined students as criminals, with unfortunate consequences …Unfortunately, most current [zero-tolerance] policies eliminate the common sense that comes with discretion and, at great cost to society and to children and families, do little to improve school safety.
This lack of common sense when dealing with children seems to be just another symptom of the growing police state mentality in America. According to many polls, parents and teachers overwhelmingly support zero-tolerance policies for weapons, drugs, and violence in schools, but few studies have been done on non-violent infractions — like burping in class or requesting not to be seated next to a stinky classmate.
According to the Albuquerque Student Behavior Handbook, “The principal has the responsibility to take discretionary action any time the educational process is threatened with disruption.” Apparently, burping is enough of a disruption to warrant an arrest according to school officials.
Ultimately, Kennedy will likely win all of her cases at great cost to the local taxpayers who should be outraged at the behavior of their public school and law enforcement officials.