|Image credit: Madison Ruppert from WMAZ video|
Madison Ruppert, Contributor
In yet another instance of children being criminalized for exhibiting childish behavior, a six-year-old was hauled out of school in handcuffs for allegedly throwing a temper tantrum in class.
Salecia Johnson, a kindergartener, was taken away from her small
Georgia school in steel handcuffs after being accused of tearing items
off the walls and throwing books in an outburst at Creekside Elementary in Milledgeville and now the school system and the police are both defending how they handled the incident.
According to WMAZ,
police “took the child to the police station where she was charged with
simple assault and damage to property. Because of her age, she will not
The family of Johnson said that she was badly shaken by her treatment
while Geneva Braziel, the superintendent for Baldwin County schools,
characterized Johnson’s behavior as “violent and disruptive.”
Police refused to say what actually set off the alleged tantrum, but
they did accuse Johnson of also throwing a small shelf which hit the
principal on the leg along with jumping on a paper shredder ant
attempting to break a glass frame.
Unfortunately, Johnson’s experience is far from isolated as this
troubling trend is something that occurs across the United States.
In California, for instance, over 40% of public school suspensions are issued for dubious reasons such as “willful defiance” and disruption.
Ultimately, in many of these cases, the policies end up hurting the
students the most, as evidenced by the fact that according to Johnson’s
mother, Constance Ruff, Johnson was suspended and is not allowed to
return to school until August.
Milledgeville Chief of Police Dray Swicord defended the police’s
decision to haul Johnson out of school in cuffs by claiming that it was
standard operating procedure and that when an officer tried to calm her,
“Our policy is that any detainee transported to our station in a
patrol vehicle is to be handcuffed in the back. There is no age
discrimination on that rule,” Swicord said.
“She has mood swings some days, which all of us had mood swings
some days. I guess that was just one of her bad days that day,” Ruff
explained, painting a picture of a child throwing a temper tantrum, as
children are wont to do, which police responded to by treating her like a
hardened, violent offender.
According to The Washington Post,
civil rights advocates and criminal justice experts across the United
States are observing how frustrated teachers and school administrators
are calling police to resolve even the most minor conflicts.
“Kids are being arrested for being kids,” Shannon Kennedy, a civil rights attorney said.
Kennedy is currently suing the Albuquerque, New Mexico school
district due to hundreds of children being arrested over the last few
years for offenses as minor as refusing to switch seats or having cell
phones in class all the way up to the high crimes of burping and
destroying a history book.
In one case, a 14-year-old boy was actually arrested for inflating a
condom in the classroom. I don’t know about you, but I know that I would
get a kick out of reading that police report.
Other cases include another kindergartener being arrested in Florida
for an allegedly throwing a temper tantrum during a jelly bean counting
contest several years ago.
In fact, a bill was proposed just this year in Florida in an attempt
to restrict the ability for police to arrest children for minor
misdemeanors or other acts which do not pose a serious threat to safety.
Annette Montano of Albuquerque also said that her 13-year-old child
was arrested just last year for the absurd crime of burping in gym
While Albuquerque school officials will not comment on the arrests in
their school system, the president of the Albuquerque teachers union,
Ellen Berstein, claims that students’ bad behavior is more extreme now
than it once was.
She claims that there are cases of sexual harassment in elementary
and middle school as well as cases of children throwing furniture.
“There is more chronic and extreme disrespect, disinterest and kids who
basically don’t care,” she added.
Thankfully, not all are blind enough to buy the flawed logic put
forth by schools and police. Darrel Stephens, a former police chief in
Charlotte, North Carolina and executive director of the Major Cities
Chief Association is one of those who does not see this trend as
“I have had some concern for a while that the schools have relied a little too heavily on police officers to handle disciplinary problems,” Stephens said.
In Texas alone, a nonprofit public interest group called Texas
Appleseed found that an estimated 100,000 children are ticketed each and
every year for misdemeanors ranging from violations of the school dress
code to truancy to swearing.
One Texas state lawmaker, Senator John Whitmire, wants to get rid of
student ticketing entirely. He says that teachers and police need to
draw more distinct lines between students who they are actually afraid
of and students who they are mad at.
“If you are afraid of someone because they bring a gun or drugs, of
course we come down hard,” Whitmire said. “It’s the kids that just make
you mad that you don’t need to make a crime.”
This seems like a wholly logical statement and yet somehow it doesn’t
seem to be shared by some administrators, teachers, police and
If we continue to turn our children into criminals by treating them
as such, we can expect a culture of criminality and a large customer
base for the private prison industry to continue into the foreseeable
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even your original writing if you would like to get it published. Please
email me at Admin@EndtheLie.com
This article first appeared at End the Lie.