Category Archive 'Criminalizing Children'

17 Mar 2011

Humor-Impaired Authorities in New Jersey

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CBS local news in New York reports that police and high school authorities in Woodbridge, New Jersey recently lost all sense of proportion.

It was supposed to be a senior prank, but now three students in Woodbridge said they’re facing criminal charges — and may not be able to walk through graduation ceremony and take part in other senior activities.

Does the punishment go too far?

It wasn’t the T-shirts that got two 17-year-olds in trouble, but the actual chickens they said they released into their high school as part of a senior prank back in February.

“So we confessed. We told the truth. Now we’re getting charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, not allowed to go to prom, not allowed to go to graduation, and all that,” Anthony Cesareo told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.

Cesareo and Tyler Bruno said they bought live chickens from a store in Newark and pushed the chickens through a window at Woodbridge High School in the middle of the night. A janitor found them in the morning before school started. …

It may have been a joke to them, but police said it wouldn’t have been so funny if a student got hurt.

I think myself that the principal and police chief of Woodbridge, NJ badly need the trees in front of their houses TP’d.

Hat tip to James Coulter Harberson III.

Well I was born down south on a chicken farm near Nashville, Tennessee
T’weren’t nobody there, but a sky full of air, 17 billion chickens, and me
And then one day I said “Hey, hey, hey, think I’ll drop a little LSD.”
Well, it blew my mind,
I got real kind,
And I set my chickens free.

And there was
Chickens in the pasture,
Chickens in the barn,
Chickens in the cauliflower,
Chickens in the corn,
Chickens driving Cadillacs to Washington DC,
When I set my chickens free. –Gilbert Shelton

04 Feb 2011

New Jersey 7-Year-Old Charged For Bringing Toy Gun to School

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More Hoplophobic insanity

NBC Philadelphia:

A 7-year-old child allegedly shot a Nerf-style toy gun in his Hammonton, N.J., school Jan. 18. No one was hurt, but the pint-size softshooter now faces misdemeanor criminal charges.

Hammonton Police began an investigation into the “suspicious activity” at the Hammonton Early Childhood Education Center Jan. 18 after school officials alerted them to the incident.

The “gun” the child brought to school was a $5 toy gun, similar to a Nerf gun, that shoots soft ping pong type balls, according to the school’s superintendent.

Officials also say that there was no evidence of anyone being threatened. The child’s mother told school officials that she didn’t know her son brought the toy to school.

Dr. Dan Blachford, the Hammonton Board of Education superintendent, said the school has a zero tolerance policy.

“We are just very vigilant and we feel that if we draw a very strict line then we have much less worry about someone bringing in something dangerous,” said Blachford. …

Police charged the 7-year-old with possessing an imitation firearm in or on an education institution – a misdemeanor and a minor juvenile offense in New Jersey.

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

15 Oct 2009

45 Days Reform School For Cub Scout Camping Gear

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The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein would describe it as a species of linguistic confusion when school administrators confuse a harmless dining utensil with a weapon.


Zachary Christie, 6, was happy about joining the Cub Scouts and was excited about a new camping utensil that functions as a spoon, fork and knife — so excited that he took the tool to school to use it at lunch.

But the Newark, Del., boy’s enthusiasm got him kicked out of school for violating a zero-tolerance policy on weapons. …

The first-grader faces 45 days in reform school after officials determined the camping utensil violated the Christina School District’s ban on knives. His mother is home-schooling him while his family appeals the punishment.

But the New York Times explains that another factor is in play in promoting this kind of irrationality. Racial politics come into play when the youth who brought a knife to school to rob other children of their lunch money is disarmed and punished, so it becomes necessary to send the six-year-old cub scout with the camping kit to reform school, too, to prove that you are not racially biased.

Spurred in part by the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, many school districts around the country adopted zero-tolerance policies on the possession of weapons on school grounds. More recently, there has been growing debate over whether the policies have gone too far.

But, based on the code of conduct for the Christina School District, where Zachary is a first grader, school officials had no choice. They had to suspend him because, “regardless of possessor’s intent,” knives are banned. …

Education experts say that zero-tolerance policies initially allowed authorities more leeway in punishing students, but were applied in a discriminatory fashion. Many studies indicate that African-Americans were several times more likely to be suspended or expelled than other students for the same offenses.

“The result of those studies is that more school districts have removed discretion in applying the disciplinary policies to avoid criticism of being biased,” said Ronnie Casella, an associate professor of education at Central Connecticut State University who has written about school violence. He added that there is no evidence that zero-tolerance policies make schools safer.

12 Jul 2009

Culture Wars in Bozeman

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Bridget Kevane, a professor at Montana State University and resident of Bozeman, left three younger children in the charge of her twelve year old daughter and a girlfriend at the local mall. The two older girls went to try on clothing in a dressing room leaving the younger siblings, aged 3, 7, and 8, alone and unattended by a store counter. Store employees seeing the children alone called mall security, which in turn summoned the police.

The professor soon found herself charged with child endangerment, being prosecuted by a city attorney determined to teach someone like herself a lesson.

The city attorney made no secret of the fact that her own parenting choices informed her decision in backing up the police officer. She told my lawyer in their first meeting that she also had a daughter and would never have left her at the mall. She also said she believed professors are incapable of seeing the real world around them because their “heads are always in a book.” Her first letter to my lawyer ended on a similar theme: “I just think that even individuals with major educations can commit this offense, and they should not be treated differently because they have more money or education.” Despite the fact that Montana professors are among the lowest paid in the nation, and that undoubtedly the prosecutor has a law degree herself, she nevertheless categorized me as someone trying to receive special treatment.

My lawyer and I came to understand that, more than anything, the city attorney wanted me to plead guilty, to admit that I had “violated a duty of care.” She wanted me to carry that crime with me for the rest of my life, a scarlet A that would symbolically humiliate me, teach me a lesson, and remain etched in my being.

I now realize that her pressure—her near obsession with having me plead guilty—had less to do with what I had done and more to do with her perception of me as an outsider who thought she was above the law, who had money to pay her way out of a mistake, who thought she was smarter than the Bozeman attorney because of her “major education.” This perception took hold even though I had never spoken one word to her directly. Nor did I ever speak in court; only my lawyer did. I was visible but silent, and thus unable to shake the image that the prosecutor had created of me: a rich, reckless, highly educated outsider mother who probably left her children all the time in order to read her books.

In our contemporary media-driven culture, stereotype images of wrong-doing identified by news programs and television dramas as pandemic problems float abundantly in the national subconscious ready to be applied. The progressive ideal of public activism and aggressive ameliorism promotes doing something about these supposed “problems,” treating the impulse to do things, to act in such a context as enlightened and responsible, even heroic.

Even a basically trivial incident like the one involving Professor Kevane’s children can easily today become the pretext for an avalanching tragedy of exaggeration and paranoia. In this case, ironically, we seem to find what should be expected to be the more conservative native residents, in a man-bites-dog situation, bringing the heavy burden of statist paternalism down upon a liberal university professor, who this time finds herself on the defensive and losing in the culture wars.

Hat tip to Judith Warner.

03 Jun 2008

10-Year-Old In Massachusetts Suspended Over Discharged Cartridge Case

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In Winchendon, Massachusetts, a veteran who fired salutes on Memorial Day gave ten-year-old Bradley Geslak two empty discharged brass cartridge cases. (Little boys love these. I know, because, when I was that age, I treasured any empty cartridge cases I found.)

A teacher at Toy Town Elementary School saw the 4th-grader fondling one of his souvenirs at lunch the next day, confiscated the kid’s prized possession, and arranged for him to be suspended for five days.

Despite parent’s requests the school is refusing to give the kid back his souvenir, and has threatened to assign the child to a probation officer.

Worcester Telegram via Nancy Mathis.

18 Dec 2007

10 Year Old Charged With Felony for Cutting Meat with a Knife at Lunch

, , , reports another incident of insane hoplophobia at an elementary school in Ocala, Florida.

School officials say the 5th grader was brown-bagging it. She brought a piece of steak for her lunch, but she also brought a steak knife. That’s when deputies were called.

It happened in the cafeteria at Sunrise Elementary School. The 10-year-old used the knife to cut the meat.

“She did not use it inappropriately. She did not threaten anyone with it. She didn’t pull it out and brandish it. Nothing of that nature,” explained Marion County School Spokesman Kevin Christian.

But a couple of teachers took the utensil and called the sheriff. When deputies arrived, they were unable to get the child’s parents on the phone, so they arrested her and took her to the county’s juvenile assessment center.

“And we didn’t handcuff her or treat her like a criminal. But, we took her to the assessment center to be assessed,” said Capt. James Pogue, Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

School officials said it doesn’t matter what the knife was being used for. They said they had no choice.

“Anytime there’s a weapon on campus, yes, we have to report it and we aggressively report it because we don’t want to take any chances, regardless,” Christian said.

But the sheriff’s office said the extreme measures in what some may say was a harmless incident had to do with school policy, not theirs.

“But once we’re notified, we have to take some type of action,” Pogue explained.

The student now faces a felony charge for the possession of a weapon on school property and the principal suspended her for ten days. The parents of the girl could not be reached for comment.

The sheriff’s office has turned the case over to the State Attorney’s Office.

29 Sep 2007

In Britain, Hospitalized 10-Year-Old May Be Charged With Hate Crime For Name Calling

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Police are considering charging a 10-year-old boy with a race hate crime after he was beaten by a Slovakian woman with an iron bar.

Jake Stedman needed hospital treatment after the attack in Chatham on Friday, when he was allegedly beaten around the head and neck after being chased down an alley, and was left with two black eyes.

But police are now looking into claims from the 35-year-old woman who allegedly attacked him and who is currently on police bail, that he made racist remarks by telling her “to go back to her own country”. …

If charged with racially aggravated assault, Jake, who has only just reached the age of criminal responsibility, would become the youngest person in the country to face a race hate charge.

“It is very early stages but we are investigating whether the boy should face any charges,” said a police source.

”There have been allegations that he used racist language and it is necessary for us to investigate the claims.” …

The incident occurred as Jake and his friends were playing outside a local convenience store when a group of four Slovakian women passed by.

The boys allegedly called out to the women and threw soft fruit at them. …

“Medway Police will continue to monitor the situation and work in partnership with other agencies and we are treating these matters extremely seriously.”

Ch Insp Peter Wedlake, of Medway Police, said: “We won’t tolerate racially motivated offences, whoever they are committed by.”

And they’ll soon have cameras everywhere, so they can catch you hunting with dogs or name calling.

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

21 Aug 2007

Charges Against Oregon Kids Dropped

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AP reports, at the victims’ request.

Two 13-year-old boys accused of slapping girls’ bottoms and poking or cupping girls’ breasts at school apologized on Monday as a judge dismissed charges against the two, ending a six-month case that drew national attention. …

Four girls listed as victims by the prosecutors had asked the judge to drop the charges against Cory Mashburn and Ryan Cornelison.

Yamhill County Judge John Collins did so on Monday, saying it was in the “interest of justice.”

A number of young girls were in the courtroom during the hearing. They included at least some of the four who asked that the charges be dropped, attorneys said.

During the brief hearing, the two boys faced the girls and apologized. …

The News-Register newspaper of McMinnville reported that a “civil compromise” reached by prosecutors and the defense called for both boys to apologize, to pay each of the four girls $250 and to complete a “boundaries education” program.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys said they could not comment on the newspaper report or release details of the settlement because they are confidential.

Pressure has been building on prosecutors to drop the charges, with critics saying they had blown the matter out of proportion and were overzealous.

The boys, apparently inspired by the movie “Jackass,” were accused in police reports of swatting girls on the bottom in a school corridor, grabbing girls’ breasts on at least two occasions, teaming up to “dry hump” girls, poking girls’ breasts and engaging in what’s known as “party boy” dancing mimicking sexual intercourse.

They were originally charged with felony and misdemeanor sex abuse charges in February. Amid growing public opposition to sending the boys to prison and putting them on a sex offenders’ registry, prosecutors dropped the felony sex abuse charges and added misdemeanor harassment charges, then later dropped all sex abuse charges, leaving only the harassment counts.

The judge dismissed the final charges following negotiations between prosecutors and the defense, and discussions with the four girls about whether they wanted the case dismissed.

Now let’s hope the people out there in Oregon go on to remove that county prosecutor from office and to fire the school officials and cops involved in embarrassing their state, county, and community. Somebody should start a “morons who should never be allowed to hold any office or position of responsibility” list.

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