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How America Outlawed Adolescence

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André Chung

  • At least 22 states make it a crime to disturb school in ways that teenagers are wired to do. Why did this happen?
  • Related: From the Archives | Where Do We Draw the Line When It Comes to Zero Tolerance in Schools?

Amanda Ripley, the Atlantic

November, 2016 | One monday morning last fall, at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, a 16-year-old girl refused to hand over her cellphone to her algebra teacher. After multiple requests, the teacher called an administrator, who eventually summoned a sheriff’s deputy who was stationed at the school. The deputy walked over to the girl’s desk. “Are you going to come with me,” he said, “or am I going to make you?”

Niya Kenny, a student sitting nearby, did not know the name of the girl who was in trouble. That girl was new to class and rarely spoke. But Kenny had heard stories about the deputy, Ben Fields, who also coached football at the school, and she had a feeling he might do something extreme. “Take out your phones,” she whispered to the boys sitting next to her, and she did the same. The girl still hadn’t moved. While Kenny watched, recording with her iPhone, Fields wrenched the girl’s right arm behind her and grabbed her left leg. The girl flailed a fist in his direction. As he tried to wrestle her out of her chair, the desk it was attached to flipped over, slamming the girl backwards. Then he reached for her again, extracting her this time, and hurled her across the classroom floor.

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From the Archives | Where Do We Draw the Line When It Comes to Zero Tolerance in Schools? T.C. Kelly, Free Advice Legal

  • It is with good reason that the Justice Department has urged schools to abandon their zealous enforcement of zero tolerance policies. Some administrators are reluctant to do so because zero tolerance policies allow administrators to deflect blame for their actions by saying “I’m just enforcing the policy.” But the Due Process Clause requires schools to treat students fairly. That means exercising judgment to distinguish behaviors that merit punishment from those that don’t. The wise exercise of discretion might be more difficult than the blind enforcement of a zero tolerance policy, but it is also more just.
  • Related: The West’s War on Children

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