12-year-old American arrested for doodling on desk

A 12-year-old girl from New York has been handcuffed and arrested by the police for doodling on the classroom desk, an incident that has shaken the US education system to its core.

Alexa Gonzales, a seventh grader at the Junior High School in Forest Hills, had written the words “I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here 2/1/10 :)” on the classroom desk with a green marker when the school principal decided to have her arrested by the New York City Police Department.

Consequently, Alexa’s hands was cuffed behind her back while she was escorted from school to the police precinct across the street in front of her teachers and her classmates.

“They put the handcuffs on me, and I couldn’t believe it,” Alexa told CNN. “I didn’t want them to see me being handcuffed, thinking I’m a bad person.”

Alexa missed three days of school because of the psychological ordeal she faced. Her mother said she spent those days throwing up, and she found it difficult to catch up on homework when she eventually returned to school.

The case has cast a dark shadow over the use of so-called zero tolerance policies adopted in schools in the US.

Zero tolerance policies in US schools have been the subject of heated debate in the past few months with some critics saying that schools and police have a tendency to overreact in punishing students involved in nonviolent offenses such as drawing on desks, writing on other school property or talking back to teachers.

“We are arresting them at younger and younger ages [in cases] that used to be covered with a trip to the principal’s office, not sending children to jail,” said Emma Jordan-Simpson, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund, a national children’s advocacy group.

Broad zero tolerance policies have reportedly caused serious problems, namely, the denial of education, rise in dropout rates, increased rate of suspensions and expulsions, and racially biased impact.

New York attorney Joe Rosenthal, who is representing Alexa, has decided to sue officials at the school and the police, claiming they have violated Alexa’s constitutional rights.

Meanwhile, the New York City Department of Education officials refused to comment on the event.

“Our mission is to make sure that public schools are a safe and supportive environment for all students,” said Margie Feinberg, an education department spokeswoman.

One Response

  1. The Zero Tolerance policy is indicative of an organization suborning its authority to outside influence. The arrest of a girl for typical teanage behavior such as leaving a statement of freindship with a green marker ( Highlighter? Water washable) is an outrage an a abuse of power. The principal should be fired and held accountable for all damages. The Police should be chastised by the governor and be made aware of the intentional harm they inflicted on this child. What was done was criminal and should be sanctioned all the way.

    In my opinion the zero tolerance imposed by school districts in many cases go beyond the law and it becomes a fiat of the dictatorial power of the school board and adminsitration of the schools. It is my opinion that there is an organized effort to modify and change the political structure and voting habits of future generations by these school children who have grown up under zero tolerance. What they hope to accomplish is a society that will accept zero tolerance of private ownership and use of firearms. You have the the flower children of the 60’s and earyly 70’s running the school administrations today and they are using their positions to try to change a voting block. It should be considered unamerican for what they are doing. Arresting children for drawing pitchures of a gun, having a butter knive in the lunch box as a utensil,
    this is communistic, dictatorial and should be considered a crimiminal act against a child.

    America grew up with firearms as hunting and defensive weapons and kids grew up with cowboy and indian movies and adventure stories and programs. I grew up in oregon and every boy had a pocket knife and they were no knife fights or assaults, in high school a boy traveled to school with his shotgun or deer rifle in the rifle rack in the pickup or they were in the trunk of the car as many went hunting before school or right after school. There were no shootings of students, teachers and no weapon threats.

    I normally support law enforcement action but in this case the Principal committed a crime by abusing his authority to cause harm to this student. A normal school sanction could have been done ie counseling, after school detention, a parent meeting and restitution ( repair or replace the marked desk). To have this girl arrested is wrong. In my opinion the police should have counseled the principle that he was wrong or committing a big mistake and advised him that he would have to sign a waiver of liabilty before the department would effect the arrest. This way an unfortunat officer is not subjected to the litigation that would follow this wrongful arrest.

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