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July 31, 2013

Zero Tolerance Policies Put Students In The Hands Of Bad Cops

Tech Dirt:

Over the past several years, there's been a rise in the number of law enforcement officers taking up residence in public schools. This rise corresponds with the proliferation of zero-tolerance policies. Combined, these two factors have resulted in criminalization of acts that were once nothing more than violations of school policies, something usually handled by school administrators. As infractions have morphed into criminal acts, the severity of law enforcement "liaison" responses has also escalated.

Here's a recent example of the severity of the response greatly outweighing the actual infraction.

The incident started when a Delaware State Police trooper, who was on assignment as a school resource officer in the Cape Henlopen School District, questioned the third-grader and a fifth-grader while investigating the theft of $1.

According to court papers, the questioning was so intense, complete with threats of the children being sent to a juvenile facility for lying, that the 8-year-old -- who was not a suspect -- burst into tears. His parents pulled him out of school because of the January 2008 incident and filed a lawsuit in January 2010 charging the officer violated the child's rights.

The theft of a dollar shouldn't have warranted much more than a visit to the principal's office, if that. But, because of these policies, the school automatically turned it over to a state trooper, who then interrogated two children, presumably attempting to get the 8-year-old to testify against the fifth-grader. Unfortunately, incidents like these are far from rare.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at July 31, 2013 12:35 AM
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