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.
Filed under: Civil Liberties, Education Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex Tagged: | Alexa Gonzales, Children's Defense Fund, Emma Jordan-Simpson, Joe Rosenthal, Margie Feinberg, New York City Department of Education, New York City Police Department, police state, racism, youth