Every angler knows that the size of fish that may be kept is regulated. For example, in South Florida, speckled perch under 10 inches in length caught in Lake Okeechobee must be released at once. In salt water, such as would be found around the Florida keys, a red snapper must be at least 20 inches in length if caught in the Atlantic Ocean or 16 inches in length if caught in the Gulf of Mexico.
Someone needs to explain this to the Dennis Ward, the State Attorney of Monroe County (Florida.) From a news network in the Keys comes the story of the arrest of a 10-year old girl for the act of being terrified of a school shooting and bringing a steak knife to school with which to protect herself.
“This was an unfortunate incident, but it was handled quickly and professionally by our School Resource Officer Robert Bulnes and school officials,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “I’m grateful this young girl did not threaten anyone and that did not appear to be her intent. I’m also grateful to report that the incident was handled jointly with our law enforcement and community partners who decided what the appropriate criminal measures should be going forward.”
That gurgling sound you are hearing is air in the school-to-prison pipeline. In Monroe County, they need to fill it up and any size will do.
For the rest of us, we have to question the wisdom of this decision. The 5th-grader had no intention of threatening anyone, even less than to harm anyone. Why an arrest? Why proceed with criminal charges?
What is the point?
It would be better to proceed with restorative practices, to address the young girl’s fears, and to explain to her why she made a bad decision and how it impacted others.
Why is this so hard nowadays?
Yesterday, a young lady walked out of my room. Many teachers might have immediately written a referral, but Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) did not. She walked out for a reason and, until GOT knows what that reason is, he cannot decide upon the best reaction. GOT planned to call her mother during his planning period and ask her to talk to her child, but he had an opportunity to talk to the student at lunchtime. She explained why she left the classroom and GOT had the opportunity to explain how he had to work as the teacher in the room. The issue was resolved; no punishment needed.
Do not tell GOT that the 10-year-old couldn’t get counseling services to deal with her fears unless she was given a juvenile arrest record and entered the justice system. There are ways of doing that if services are needed without an arrest.
We have become a harsh nation indeed if we have lost the qualities of mercy and grace. The authorities determined that she did not threaten anyone or intend to.
She’s not a keeper. Put her back in the water, Mr. State Attorney, Mr. Sheriff, and all others involved in this terrible decision.