A 12-year-old girl, Breana Evans, from Milwee Middle School outside of Orlando, Florida was arrested and booked after she allegedly pinched a boy’s butt in school as part of a popular game. While the boy did not want to press charges, the boy’s mother reportedly insisted on criminal charges being brought against the girl.
The boy’s mother’s insistence on prosecution for misdemeanor battery left the girl’s family dumbfounded. Her father told media that “I’m sorry my kid touched your kid. But I’m sorry because you need some help, I think — too overprotective — let your kid be your kid. He might get some friends, and that’s all I have to say.”
I cannot imagine what the mother is thinking in bringing such criminal charges but I am more confused by why the police and prosecutors would go along with such approach. This would seem yet another case where a simple call to parents would seem to suffice. Yet we have seen even hugs treated as criminal matters in today’s zero tolerance environment. We have previously followed the suspensions and discipline of students under zero tolerance policies that are used by teachers to justify zero judgment or responsibility. I have long criticized zero tolerance policies that have led to suspensions and arrests of children (here, here and here and here and here). Here is a prior column on the subject (and here). Children have been suspended or expelled for drawing stick figures or wearing military hats or bringing Legos shaped like guns or pretend bow and arrows or even having Danish in the shape of a gun. Even teeshirts with patriotic or constitutional themes involving guns have been the basis for discipline. Despite the public outcry over the completely irrational and abusive application of zero tolerance rules, administrators and teachers continue to apply them blindly. Zero tolerance policies are often an excuse for zero exercise of judgment. Now matters are simply turned over the police which show the same robotic, unthinking response to childhood pranks and actions.
What do you think?