Police arrested a Longwood, Florida, 12-year-old girl for pinching a male classmate's butt during school hours. Breana Evans has been charged with misdemeanor battery and was temporarily placed in juvenile detention.
Everybody involved in this story—Breana, her father, the cops, her alleged victim—thinks the arrest is an overreaction. Everybody, except the boy's mom, who alerted police and demanded that they prosecute.
"I regret it because I didn't know it would lead to this," Breana told WPTV.com.
Breana claims she didn't know the boy. She pinched him because that's just something her friends do. Keep in mind that she is 12.
The school resource deputy—that's the police officer who patrols the school—didn't charge her with a crime because the boy didn't want to press charges. Instead, Breana was suspended.
But the boy's mother insisted to police that he was the victim of battery, and so they had no choice but to arrest Breana. She was Mirandized and put in a patrol car. They took her mugshot and booked her into juvenile detention.
The state attorney said that Breana will have to complete community service, submit to drug tests, and take classes. If she does all those things, the charges will eventually be dismissed.
Breana's actions were wrong. She should not have violated that boy's personal space. It was appropriate for the school to tell her to keep her hands to herself, and even to give her some light punishment. But a suspension seems a tad overboard, unless the boy was deeply humiliated or scarred. Nothing in the story suggests that this was the case.
Part of growing up is learning to respect other people's boundaries, and schools should play a role in instructing kids to behave like adults.
The police, on the other hand, have no role to play in the lives of non-violent, non-troubled kids who are making typical kid mistakes. It is ludicrous to charge Breana with a crime. She's not a criminal, she's a normal pre-teen. Kids push each other around. They mess with each other. Police should interfere only when such conduct is actually threatening. A kid who repeatedly punches another kid might deserve a visit to juvenile detention. A kid who pinches another kid deserves a time-out.
But given the new obsession with child safety, and paranoia about sex crimes, I'm actually a bit surprised Breana hasn't also been charged with sexual harassment. If Breanna were a boy and the victim a girl, perhaps the authorities would have imposed a harsher sentence. (A 13-year-old boy in Maryland who kissed a 14-year-old girl on a dare was charged with second-degree assault.)
"Lord, lord, lord, what's this world come to?" asked Breana's father. "Kid can't even be a kid."
And that's exactly the problem. When we expect perfect behavior from children, we set them up for failure. If they're not allowed to make mistakes, then they're not allowed to grow up. Putting a kid in jail for a one-off physical encounter is cruel, it's unnecessary, and it betrays a profound naivety about the social development of young people.