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Are kids being arrested for being kids?  Parents know that kids will act out by throwing a hissy fit when they don’t get their way.  They also know that six-year-old children are still learning to manage their emotions and a less traumatic way to handle temper tantrums would be a “time-out” not booking process.  Unfortunately, there appears to be a growing trend by school officials to rely on police and the courts to control bad behavior.

Our first juvenile court system opened in Chicago in 1899 and was originally designed to process minors that cross the line from bad behavior to criminal acts.  The juvenile justice system was designed to rehabilitate minors but the pendulum has swung with zero tolerance policies that often result in a call to police rather than to parents.  A limited online search found that 1252 kids under the age of 10 were arrested last year in Florida alone.  In Los Angeles over 10,000 citations were given to kids between 2009 and 2011.  Last month a 6 year old girl that had a temper tantrum was arrested and handcuffed for throwing toys, books, and pushing a small book shelve that hit the principle on the leg.  A 7 year old boy that weighed 70 pounds was also arrested in Florida when he had a tantrum and hit the teacher in his chest area. Kids are also being arrested for nonviolent misbehavior.  For example a 13 year old was arrested for burping in gym class. A 10 year old was arrested for being rude and waving a tampon in class.

Even disabled students are being handed over to police for behavioral infractions.

  • In Brooklyn, NY, a 5-year-old autistic student, was physically removed from the school by police because he was having a temper tantrum.
  • In Albuquerque, a 7-year-old with autism was handcuffed by police officers called to restrain him for calling other children names, knocking over chairs, spitting, and shooting rubber bands.
  • In 2010, an autistic student was arrested for becoming agitated because her teacher wouldn’t let her wear her favorite hoodie.

Should police put elementary aged children in handcuffs and take them to juvenile hall when they act badly?  Some argue that bad behavior is being criminalized because school officials would rather use the police then school detention. See the following stories for more details.

Written By: John R. Rodriguez, Criminal Defense Attorney San Diego, CA.