We have yet another example of how we have criminalized our schools and society with the arrest of a mother at the Walnut Groves Elementary School in Missouri. Niakea Williams was responding to an emergency call that her boy with Asperger’s syndrome was having a panic attack. She ran straight to his room to comfort and calm him . . . she was then promptly arrested for failing to check in at the front office.
Williams received the call at home and rushed to the school. Notably, she had just met with the principal a day or so before. Thus, the principal knew Williams. However, ran up to her in the classroom and told her that she failed to sign in. When Williams noted that she was comforted her child and could sign in if someone brought the book, the principal told her it was too late — the police were on the way.
Let assume for a second all the principal saw was not a women with whom she just met but a blur running past the office. Once she clearly saw it was the mother of this panicked child, why wouldn’t she call off the police. Instead, the mother was arrested and charged. This brings us to the officers who could have shown greater judgment and simply escorted out the mother with a warning. Then there are the police supervisors and prosecutors who could have declined the charge. No one exercised a modicum of judgment in this situation of a mother rushing to her child.
She was charged with trespassing. The school was locked down briefly and a letter sent to all parents about the incident. It was a mother rushing to her crying child.
It is not clear from accounts whether the prosecutors are proceeding with the case.
I have previously written about my concern with the criminalization of conduct in America, particularly at our schools. We have seen even pranks charged as crimes. The question is why these cases (which used to be handled as a disciplinary matter for the school) had to be handed over to the police and prosecutors. Both students and parents alike are finding themselves handed over to the police for violations of school policies and practices.