Civil Liberties

How Many Child Arrests Are Too Many?

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An Orlando police officer was fired in September after he handcuffed and arrested a 6-year-old girl at school for throwing a temper tantrum. The arrest sparked national outrage, but it was just a single instance of a widespread problem.

ABC News reported in October that, according to FBI crime data, 30,467 children under the age of 10 were arrested in the United States between 2013 and 2018. During the same period, 266,000 children between the ages of 10 and 12 were arrested.

The good news is that the rate of juvenile arrests has dropped significantly since its peak, from roughly 8,500 arrests per 100,000 individuals between the ages of 10 and 17 in 1996 to 2,400 in 2016. The bad news is that law enforcement officers feel more emboldened than ever to arrest children, thanks to our collective focus on school shootings.

In October, an Overland Park, Missouri, cop handcuffed and arrested an eighth-grader who had formed her fingers into a pretend gun and pointed them at her classmates. "I'll take the heat all day long for arresting a 13-year-old," the Overland Park Police chief told The Kansas City Star. "I'm not willing to take the heat for not preventing a school tragedy."

In August, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Kansas City police officer's handcuffing of a disruptive 7-year-old did not violate the child's Fourth Amendment rights. Meanwhile, the Monroe County State Attorney's Office in Florida announced it would file criminal charges against a fifth-grader who brought a steak knife to school; the 10-year-old said she brought it to defend herself in case of an armed attacker. "The thought process on charging her was to get her into the system and get some psychological help for her," State Attorney Dennis Ward told the Florida Keys Free Press.

Setting aside whether a 10-year-old should be punished for believing what active-shooter drills and wall-to-wall school shooting coverage are beating into kids' heads, there is a way to help her that doesn't involve prosecution. The criminal justice system has become America's default solution for all of its social problems, and that mentality has oozed into the classroom. If we want to stop such outrageous cases, asking state legislators to set statutory age limits for criminal responsibility would be a good place to start. Currently, 34 states have no such limit, while 11 states place the floor at 10 years old. That number should probably be higher. And we should end the open season in the rest of the country.

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  1. I am surprised that the number of arrests of children has gone down so dramatically since 1996. With school resource officers having become ubiquitous in the intervening years, I assumed opportunity for arrest would have skyrocketed.

    But then I saw the age range – up to 17. With violent crime rates plummeting and overall crime rates dropping as well, I’d bet that those numbers primarily depend on reductions in the number of 16 and 17 year old kids who are doing serious crimes.

    An interesting number to have would be the numbers for arrests of elementary school and middle school kids for “crimes” that would have been handled by the school system or parents prior to the arrival of the SRO – as in the case of the 6 year old with a temper tantrum.

    Those cases had to have gone from essentially zero to some number much greater than zero over those years.

  2. Let’s just put kids in prison at a given age, say 5 or 6 until 21? Save the cops a lot of work, not only the kids, but arresting concerned parents for child neglect and abuse too. Welcome to the PSA (Police State of America). (sarc)

    1. Not prison. Send them into the Child Corps, Buttigieg Youth, or whatever you want to call it.

      1. Brown shirts?

    2. Arrest them and lease them to China to make our clothes. Help pay down our debt to them.

    3. I won’t vote for that, I’m not a democrat. Team blue loves the idea of forcing children into shitty schools filled with violence until they’re 18

      And they’re trying to push the age to 22

    4. What makes you think its ok to release these criminals at age 21? You liberals are always soft on crime. Once locked up, keep them locked up. Then they can’t commit more crimes on law abiding citizens can they?

      Checkmate.

      1. Wouldn’t it be easier to lock away the few innocent people for their protection since most of us are criminals?

        1. We’re all criminals. The only innocent people are the cops.

          1. You show me the man, I’ll show the crime.

  3. Meanwhile, the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office in Florida announced it would file criminal charges against a fifth-grader who brought a steak knife to school; the 10-year-old said she brought it to defend herself in case of an armed attacker. “The thought process on charging her was to get her into the system and get some psychological help for her,” State Attorney Dennis Ward told the Florida Keys Free Press.
    Maybe you shouldn’t be scaring children with the idea that they will be a victim of a school shooting.

    1. It’s all part of the plan. Scare the crap out of the kiddies so they’ll run to the protective arms of the state. This girl has learned a dangerously wrong lesson – she’s obviously thinking of and for herself and taking matters into her own hands. She needs to be locked up until she gets her mind right – you are a sheep, you need to obey your shepherd. Stay with the flock, don’t even think of wandering off on your own.

      1. My 5-yr old granddaughter came home crying the day of the shooter drill.

        This year they are sensibly calling it a tornado drill.

        Remember when it was nuclear war drills? So quaint!!

        1. In my school, they were referred to ambiguously as “shelter drills”, with no discussion of what we might be “taking shelter” from. Except for that one time my second grade teacher ran her own “duck and cover” (under the desks) drill in the classroom, and I pointed out how useless such “protection” would be. She didn’t much like that.

          1. Actually very sensible protection against a nuclear or non-nuclear explosion.

        2. A legit tornado drill would be nearly the exact opposite of an active shooter drill – Out of the classrooms, away from windows, duck/covered in an interior hallway.

          (We did these in Oklahoma schools when I was a kid)

          1. Depends on the structure of the building. If the hallways are closed at both ends with walls or secure doors, that’s a good place in a tornado. If there are glass doors or windows at the ends of the halls, as is often the case, the hallway can become a deadly wind tunnel during a tornado.

            1. Back when I lived there (early ’70s) they were steel doors.

          2. They told them to go into the clothes closet.

    2. Well at least the kids had a knife. Some have been arrested for making a “gun” with their hand and finger. Finger gun felons!

  4. Most people agree. Putting people in cages is the only solution to every problem. That’s how evolved humans are.

    1. Except in this case they’re not “people.” They’re “pets who can talk.”

      “I have long held that there are two fundamental views of children: That they are pets who can talk, or that they are small people who do not yet know very much. The wrong one is winning.” – David Friedman
      http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2010/07/breaking-walled-garden-of-childhood.html

    2. It’s no good for man to work in cages.

  5. Government has become America’s default solution for all of its social problems.

    FIFY

    1. Quite often it’s also the default problem.

  6. How many child arrests are too many? I would say the question has me thinking about the number of innocent children sentenced to death simply for the crime of being inconvenient, but then I remembered they’re just clumps of cells. Clumps of cells with arms and legs and brains and hearts and lungs and mouths and ears and eyes that all work just fine in some cases, but clumps of cells just the same.

    1. We need to get you into the system, and correct your thought process.

    2. per Physics everything is a hologram so do as you please

      1. You’ve never really seen a person. You see a ghost of that person. And nothing is solid. We’re all just floating around held together by electricity.

    3. Bor-ing.

    4. Clumps of cells with no regular brain waves: like those we declare dead and take off life support. You’d call it a child if it were in a petri dish in a refrigerator, right?

      1. If it were in a petri dish in a refrigerator, then there’s no woman to enslave, so he probably wouldn’t be interested.

  7. “I’m not willing to take the heat for not preventing a school tragedy.”

    Because pretend finger-guns are so deadly?

    Seriously?

    1. Dude! Finger guns are a gateway that leads directly to pop-tart guns!

      Next thing you now, it’s cats and dogs, living together…. mass chaos!

      1. Stupid sticky K key, jacking up my joke…..

        1. What was the joke? Something about the KKK?

          1. I don’t now.

      2. Ban fingers!!

      3. Sometimes I pick my dog up and carrying him over to the cat, face to face, because I want to see the world burn and then I watch the golf channel and work on my swing.

  8. Maybe we should not have taken away all the tools a teacher could use to address a temper tantrum?
    Maybe there should not be cops in schools unless called for an actual crime?
    Maybe we should not elect democrats at any level of government?
    Who is John Galt?

    1. Yeah, we are slouching toward Shrug territory. It’s amazing how prescient Rand was.

    2. Who is John Galt?

      Probably some poor kid living in San Francisco who doesn’t understand why nobody likes him.

    3. Maybe we should not have taken away all the tools a teacher could use to address a temper tantrum?

      Maybe we should not have chased all the male teachers out of elementary schools with hysteria about sex abuse.

      Giving the power to control their classrooms back to teachers would be difficult and complicated at this point. It would require major and controversial changes to the civil and criminal legal systems; a significant rollback of government regulation of education; a reform of child psychology and psychiatry; and big changes to labor relations in school systems, perhaps even outlawing of teacher unions. I’m not at all hopeful.

      Parents: give up on public schools. They are not safe for your children, especially boys. Get them out now. Yes, right now. Drop what you’re doing, drive to the school, and get them out. There are options.

    4. Mandatory caning for back-talk. Let your kid be the first please.

  9. In October, an Overland Park, Missouri, cop handcuffed and arrested an eighth-grader

    Overland Park is in Kansas, not Missouri.

  10. “I’m not willing to take the heat for not preventing a school tragedy.”

    Then abolish public schools.

    1. So we can assume you want open warfare between the cop union and the teachers union?
      On the other hand – – – – – –

      1. Hell, I’ll send each side a case of ammo.

  11. The good news is that the rate of juvenile arrests has dropped significantly since its peak, from roughly 8,500 arrests per 100,000 individuals between the ages of 10 and 17 in 1996 to 2,400 in 2016. The bad news is that law enforcement officers feel more emboldened than ever to arrest children, thanks to our collective focus on school shootings.

    They “feel more emboldened” but somehow are capable of containing themselves and arresting fewer children? What is the point of the this article again?

    1. There’s children and there’s “children”. They could be arresting fewer actual teenage criminals on the streets but lots more first graders with pop tart guns.

  12. 30,000+ arrests of kids under age 10 is a large, scary number but this is between 2013 & 2018 which covers 6 years. That’s a little over 5,000 a year in a country with somewhere around 45,000,000 kids under 10. That’s not necessarily an unreasonable number. The article starts with an extreme example of a 6-year old being handcuffed for a temper tantrum, but there’s no data on the rest of the arrests. How many where handcuffed? How many were doing much more than having a “temper tantrum”?

    1. How many were actually such dangerous thugs that teachers and staff should not have been expected the handle the discipline problem themselves rather than getting the criminal justice system involved? I’m guessing close to zero.

  13. The headline asks the wrong question. It is not the number of arrests that are the real issue, it is that children are being arrested for things that are not crimes. Things that would merited punishment from the school administration. It is that criminalizing childish behavior is more the first resort, not the last. If we understand and correct what s causing that, the numbers should take care of themselves.

    1. But that would require common sense, which is in such short supply that it’s better to use something abundant and cheap, like rules.

      1. I know.

        I dislike the way the headline frames it as if the problem is merely overshooting a quota rather than bad disciplinary policies.

        1. Or implying that there even should be a target number, or that the problem is in any way quantitative. Or that, other things being equal, 0 would be the right number. Or that there’s no underlying or preceding problem, that it’s just arrests per se that are problematic.

  14. I will say this the junior high I attended, 6th to 8th grade, there were some very violent kids who should have been put in jail and I’m sure will eventually die in jail and a few I know did die young. that said no one called the cops for finger pointing or even fighting unless weapons were used

  15. So you want to use a blunt tool to counteract some very particular problems? I understand the sentiment, similar to statutory exemptions for liability for cigarets or guns or malpractice or whatever, but in the long run going about things this way just gets us farther away from any semblance of justice.

  16. “I’ll take the heat all day long for arresting a 13-year-old,”

    Yeah, screw civil rights and common sense! Would you want to be the cop who has to walk into a classroom where a bunch of students were faking being dead after being shot by an imaginary gun?

    1. “I’ll take the heat all day long for arresting a 13-year-old,”

      Yeah, you wouldn’t want to miss that strip search.

  17. “How Many Child Arrests Are Too Many?”

    30,468

    “ABC News reported in October that, according to FBI crime data, 30,467 children under the age of 10 were arrested in the United States between 2013 and 2018.”

    Phew! We’re good.

  18. So, what’s wrong with arresting kids?
    Look what Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot did with kids.
    They treated children like adults, and their societies were a better place for it.
    Just read Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky some time.
    They’ll set you straight.

  19. ‘How Many Child Arrests Are Too Many?’
    Is this a trick question?

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