Homeroom Security: School Discipline in an Age of Fear

Homeroom Security: School Discipline in an Age of Fear

Homeroom Security: School Discipline in an Age of Fear

Homeroom Security: School Discipline in an Age of Fear

Excerpt

A six-year-old Latino boy, Albert, was led into the court
room by a bailiff. Albert was very quiet, timidly answering
the judge’s questions in a soft voice as he stood before the
judge along with his mother and aunt. Albert attended first
grade at a local school, and had been arrested for threaten
ing a teacher: his teacher refused to give him his “treats,” so
Albert said he would bring “a gun and a bomb” to school.
This prompted the school to call the police and have him
arrested. With no argument from the prosecutor, the case was
dismissed by the judge, who then complained about how he
had been receiving “a Niagara of cases like this due to zero
tolerance policies,” which he called “counterproductive.”

I wrote this field note about Albert while doing research for a previous book about prosecuting youth in juvenile and criminal courts; his case led me to be curious about school discipline and security. Of course, any child who threatens violence, especially life-threatening violence on such a large scale, should be reprimanded and taught that such threats are inappropriate. The school should also talk to the child’s parents, both to let them know about the problem and to determine whether the child has access to weapons. But it seems unlikely that any child of that age could understand the full implications of such a threat. The judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney in this case agreed, as indicated by the fact that they quickly and readily agreed to dismiss the case, and also by the fact that they criticized the school for calling the police to arrest Albert.

Another way to look at this case is to say “better safe than sorry,” and to argue that any threat of such large-scale violence should lead to an arrest because there is always some chance that he could follow through with it.

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