Saturday, February 6, 2010

Opinion: Should a Child Be Arrested for Doodling on a Desk?

February 6, 2010
By: Jennifer Searcy
Founder/Director of Public Policy & Affairs
The Coalition for Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports

The Associated Press is running a story on how twelve-year-old Alexa Gonzalez was taken from her school, Junior High School 190 in Queens, NY, in handcuff's for doodling "Lexa was here 2/01/10" and "I love my friends Abby and Faith" on her desk in erasable marker.

That's right: She was taken away in handcuffs for doodling on a desk with an erasable marker. Not because she was excessively violent, or because she'd assaulted someone; not because she'd committed or threatened murder or was selling drugs on school property - but because she "vandalized a desk" with an erasable marker.

What are our school systems becoming?

Should a twelve-year-old have known better than to "doodle" on a desk? Most likely, yes. Should she have been punished for vandalizing school property? Again, most likely yes. But should she have been arrested? Absolutely not.

Wouldn't a more appropriate punishment have been requiring her to wash the marker off of the desk and/or given her after-school detention?

Eric Cantor, a NY Education Department spokesperson, agrees the school over-reacted: "[T]he incident shouldn't have happened, and that common sense should prevail."
What kind of message is this sending to our children, when relatively normal childhood behaviors are criminalized? Is this really where our "Zero Tolerance" policies have led us?

What are your thoughts on this?

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