WUOMFM

Juvenile justice; two steps forward, two steps back

May 31, 2013

It's hard to decide how to process the recent spate of kids-going-to-jail-for-doing-things-kids-do stories.

Over the past week or so, outrage has swelled over the story of one 18-year-old being prosecuted for having sexual relations with a 14-year-old who went to her high school (they're both girls, so there's concern that what's being prosecuted is sexual orientation).

This month a Florida honor student was charged with a felony for an explosion being described as a "science experiment" (charges were dropped after pressure mounted). And, there's the Missouri teen being charged with a felony for what is a truly distasteful yearbook prank.

Yearbook prank. Charged with a felony.

On the glass half-full side, the school-to-prison pipeline is getting more attention and getting called out for often being outrageously out of step with the best interests of any given child. Discipline and punishment are one thing, but felony charges are another.

On a glass half-empty note,  these high profile cases are just the tip of the iceberg. One reason we're all hearing so much about these cases is because they all involve "great kids" who just happened to get arrested and charged with adult crimes. These are kids with advocates, with access to the news media, with outraged communities on their side. 

Yesterday my facebook feed featured another juvenile justice story. In the video below there's a 14-year old Florida teen being held down in a choke-hold by police officers. As described by the police, he has been charged with resisting arrest for his body language. I know nothing about this kid, but I do know he didn't have a weapon, is not reported to have verbally threatened or assaulted police officers, was at the beach with his family (his mom pulled out her phone and recorded his arrest), and is 14-years old. How many more stories like this are out there that we're not seeing? And what is happening to those kids?