Criminal Justice

A Dodgeball Game in Michigan Ends in Assault Charges for 10-Year-Old

A school criminalizes a playground injury.


An accidental schoolyard injury has resulted in criminal charges against a 10-year-old child in Michigan.

Detroit's WXYZ reports that on April 29, a student at Ruth Eriksson Elementary in Canton was hit in the face with a ball during a game similar to dodgeball—in this game, students throw a ball in the air and catch it when it falls back down. The injured student's mother hit said her child has a medical condition that could be worsened by a head injury, and that her child sustained a black eye, a bruised nose, and a concussion from the ball hit. 

A black student who was playing in the game was accused of intentionally hitting the other student, who is white, in the face. The black student received a one-day suspension. His mother, Cameishi Lindley, hoped that would settle the incident.

But the injured student's mother filed a police report in April, and last week, Lindley received a call from the Wayne County Juvenile Court informing her that her son, who is slated to start fifth grade this year, is being charged with aggravated assault in the Third Circuit Juvenile Court in Detroit. Lindley told WXYZ that she "couldn't believe it." A Facebook fundraiser created by Lindley for legal expenses also indicated that her son was the only student to be punished earlier in the year, despite playing the game with a group of students.

The injured student's mother, who is reportedly a teacher, told WXYZ that her son had been "targeted" twice before, both times in games where contact was to be expected. Lindley told WXYZ that she was sorry "that her child got hurt," but was also "unaware" of any prior incidents.

Lindley's 10-year-old son is set to appear in court on Thursday for a pre-trial conference.

A 2016 report by Reason's C.J. Ciaramella found that the Wayne County criminal justice system has a history of treating minors much more harshly than other counties around the country.

At the time of Ciaramella's report, about 150 juveniles were serving life without the possibility of parole in Wayne County, the highest number in the country. This accounted for 40 percent of the state's juvenile life without the possibility of parole sentences despite making up just 18 percent of the population. The sentences were also found to have disproportionately affected young black Americans.

*UPDATE: Since the initial story broke, prosecutors have decided to drop the charges. Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy released a statement, saying "While the charge in this case is certainly sustainable, I have instructed my staff to dismiss this case today. It is my earnest hope that both sides will come back to the table to work out a solution that benefits both of these children."