Recent reports have sparked questions about the appropriateness of having law enforcement officers inside of schools. Protesters assert that student misbehavior does not rise to a level where police involvement is necessary, while supporters claim that law enforcement presence promotes the safety of all students. Another aspect of this argument is the growing trend of referring students to law enforcement agents for school related incidents. A report by the Center for Public Integrity, ranks Virginia first among states that refer students to the criminal system. Many school officials argue that these referrals are necessary to maintain order in school, but criminal defense attorneys know that the resulting implications can prove devastating to the child.
Judges residing in these cases may choose from a variety of punishment options, including community service or probation requirements. They may also order electronic monitoring for the child or detention in a juvenile facility. In some cases, these charges may even result in a felony conviction on the juvenile’s record. These outcomes leave young people with significant delinquency records at a very early age. In one reported situation, an autistic sixth grader was charged with disorderly conduct and assault on a law enforcement officer for kicking over a trash can and kicking a student resource officer. As a result, the 11-year-old is facing a felony conviction that could follow him for the remainder of his life.
According to reports, African American students and disabled students are disproportionately referred to law enforcement officers for school behavior. For example:
- Special needs students account for 26% of all student referrals, even though they only account for 14% of United States school enrollees.
- African American students account for 27% of all student referrals, even though they only account for 16% of United States school enrollees.
Criminal Prosecution for Typical Juvenile Misbehavior
There is generally a significant difference between criminal activity and misbehaving in school. While some school mischief can rise to the level of criminality, it is by far the exception and not the rule. However, referring students to law enforcement often creates a situation where simple misbehavior is treated and punished like criminal activity, leading to harsh penalties and serious implications for less than serious incidents.
If your child is facing criminal charges in Virginia, stemming from a school related incident, contact an experienced criminal law attorney today. Call Shannon and Associates at (757) 228-5529 for a free evaluation of your case.