Arrest That Girl! She’s Writing On Her Desk!

“I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here 2/1/10 :).” Alexa Gonzalez penned these words on her desk with a lime-green magic marker, and then added a smiley face. She was bored, waiting for her Spanish teacher to hand back homework at the beginning of class. Shortly after her doodling, the 12-year-old was arrested.

Alexa, a seventh grader at Junior High School 190 in Forest Hills, New York, suspected that there would be some repercussions for her actions, but she was not ready for the handcuffs and the walk across the street to the police precinct. Worse yet, she was hauled out of her classroom, hands cuffed behind her back, in full view of her teachers and of course her classmates.

I don’t know exactly how this could have happened, but I can only assume that Alexa’s Spanish teacher called the principal, who decided that doodling on a desk is a criminal offense, and that an arrest needed to be made. Alexa was detained for several hours at the police precinct, and eventually allowed to leave. (I wonder what questions they asked her during the lengthy interrogation?). Although she had a stellar attendance record, she has not returned to school since. “She’s been throwing up,” said her mom. “The whole situation has been a nightmare.”

“We’re looking at the facts,” says City Education Department spokesman David Cantor. “Based on what we’ve seen so far, this shouldn’t have happened.” Police spokesman Paul Browne added, “Even when we’re asked to make an arrest, common sense should prevail, and discretion used in deciding whether an arrest or handcuffs are really necessary.” So, the authorities made a mistake. That’s understandable, once in a while.

But this is not an isolated case. Alexa is only the latest in a series of New York students to be arrested for a minor infraction. Possibly the most famous is 13-year-old Chelsea Fraser, arrested in 2007 for writing “Okay” on her desk at Intermediate School 201. Others include 5-year-old Dennis Rivera, who in 2008 was placed in handcuffs and sent to a psych ward after misbehaving in kindergarten, and a 12-year-old who was arrested in March 2009 for doodling on her desk at the Hunts Point School.

Across the country, there are plenty more examples of teens and preteens being arrested for seemingly minor offences. In November 2009, a food fight at a middle school in Chicago led to the arrests of 25 students, some as young as 11, according to the Chicago Police Department. And at least 12,000 tickets were issued to tardy or truant students by Los Angeles Police Department and school security officers in 2008. The Strategy Center, a California-based civil rights group that tracks zero tolerance policies, opposes this system. “The theory is that if we fine them, then they won’t be late again,” says
spokesman Manuel Criollo. “But they just end up not going to school at all.”

This is not just about zero tolerance policies gone awry. It’s about wilful cruelty to young people, at the hands of the very people who are supposed to be protecting them. When did zero tolerance become zero intelligence?

Creative Commons - hoyasmeg
Judy Molland


Jessica Larsen
Janne O4 years ago

Just about everyone in my junior high class would have been arrested if we had had those laws back then, including me...

Grace Adams
Grace Adams4 years ago

I suspect the powers that be WANT our schools to be a pipeline to prison for all but their own children. They do make BIG BUCKS as owner/operators of prisons--being paid by the year to hold prisoners and losing out only if a prisoner dies or worse yet ESCAPES. Any child of parents who are not among the powers that be that had anything on the ball would be COMPETITION for THEIR children. They can't HAVE THAT. They are bad jealous of persons who are much worse off than they are. They want ALL the resources of the world for themselves.

John Ditchman
John Ditchman4 years ago

Zero tolerance became Zero Intelligence the day the first zero tolerance policy was proposed.

Robert West
Robert West4 years ago

This is one more example of how so-called "zero tolerance" policies do only one thing: reinforce the school-to-prison pipeline. There are many great teachers and principals and school boards, but too many now refuse to have any responsibility for what they do. They prefer to distance themselves from children rather than engaging with them and helping them. They prefer to hand off every child who exhibits even the slightest form of divergent behavior or disciplinary need to "the authorities," so they can get back to the business of drawing a pay check with the least amount of effort possible. As a result, they condemn these kids to life in a greased funnel that is, for many children and families, impossible to escape. If you want your children and their friends to have a higher chance of ending up in prison after simply being children, please, by all means, insist on "zero tolerance" in your school.

Marilyn J Leger
Marilyn J L4 years ago

I'm with you, Emma! Much more appropriate.

Marilyn J Leger
Marilyn J L4 years ago

For crying out loud! Even "zero tolerance" policies require one to use judgment, not act blindly.

janet T.
janet t4 years ago

sounds like the principals of these schools are scaredy-cats. We never saw our principal or the dean of girls handle things in such a public way, it was always a talking to behind doors.

Susan McCauley
Susan McCauley4 years ago

It sounds as if the Taliban has infiltrated the school admins and the police. This acts of terror against the children are reprehensible.

Blaise G.
Blaise G4 years ago

I think arrest is totally unjustified in this matter. Expelling the student from school is one way to wake up the parents to the child's problem. Also, our school system is so backward to begin with in the first place. The WAY we teach kids these days (meaning: the last 152 years) is really a control mechanism invented by the Elite to maintain a labor force that is minimally educated, brainwashed to be compliant (don't forget ot PLEDGE your allegiance to their FLAG!) little robots who quietly and dutifully pay their illegal Labor Tax without question so the Elite can continue to reap the benefits of OUR Labor and OUR wealth!

These "Public" schools are really just an embedded, out-of-date system where the teachers (not all of them of course) have tenure, seniority and are entrenched in a system where when one teacher IS a problem, it is almost impossible to remover them from that system.

Blaise G.
Blaise G4 years ago

My daughter was just diagnosed with Auditory Deficit Disorder...a really STUPID label if you ask me. As it turns out, I had suspected that she has the same problem that I have had since I was a kid as well. But I wasn't told about mine until my oldest child had been tested for hearing loss because of numerous ear infections when he was an infant. My son's doctor gave ME the same test and discovered that I have what HE called: Auditory Dyslexia...NOT Auditory Deficit Disorder. The version of this so-called "disorder" DOES make one sound as if there is something WRONG with them and that is how the "system" has been bureaucratized over the decades. Perhaps it is getting better and those within the "system" really do care about their jobs of helping people find ways to cope and adjust to the way each individual perceives the world. I didn't have that when I was a kid and subsequently, I ended up ditching school more than I was ever IN school...which led to my "dropping out" of THEIR "system". Soon after "dropping out" of THEIR "system", I got my GED (General Education Degree; which I did very well on except for math which was barely a passing grade), but the point is, my daughter at least has testing that they can perform on her so they can see what's up with her.