Arrested For What?

In today’s world where legislators and various organizational officials try to create rules for every conceivable scenario or behavior, the lines between policy violation and violation of the law may be blurred. It behooves us to use our best judgment...

The reports go on to indicate that police were called to the school, I would guess at the request of the principal, and the student was arrested.  The student’s family said that he was arrested for disrupting an educational process and obstructing an officer.  This is where I start making that look on my face like, “Huh?”

I don’t know about the laws in every county in our country (obviously).  I’m not familiar with the laws of every state (but I hope common sense is the common thread).  But I have to question whether or not the county in question actually has a LAW against disrupting an educational process.  That sounds more like a school policy to me.  Further, if it IS an actual law, then I’m curious as to how this student wearing a shirt, that didn’t violate the dress code, disrupted anything?  I think it’s more likely that the student’s refusal to obey an order from a teacher and then the principal was what caused the disruption.  If that’s the case, then who is wrong?  Let’s leave that for further thought and move on.

So the police arrived at the school and the student was arrested and charged.  If the first violation is indeed of a school policy then how did this student obstruct an officer?  Of course, the actions of both are not detailed out.  It’s entirely possible that this student refused to be cooperative with the police to the point of exhaustive frustration.  It’s entirely possible that the police officer did all he could to help the student and that the 14 year old was so uncooperative that the police officer finally found himself in the position of having no choice but to take the kid out of school and the only way to do it was to arrest him.

No matter the circumstances, the hurdle I keep running into in my head is an arrest for a school violation.  Or was the arrest for obstructing the officer as he tried to investigate the school violation?  Without access to the arrest records or arresting officer to ask, then everything is conjecture… but it still doesn’t feel right to read an article about a 14 year old who is arrested after an encounter with a teacher over a t-shirt that ultimately was determined not to violate the school’s dress code.  The teacher was wrong; the teacher instigated the incident; the kid stood up for himself and the end result was an arrest.

I use that example, not to criticize the officer(s) but to demonstrate how easily an alleged violation of school policy, which should be resolved by the parents and principal, can evolve into a criminal matter we should never have had to deal with in the first place.  Ultimately, it seems to me, that the school personnel wanted to force the student to do as he was told, even if the reasoning for what he was told was faulty.  If the student refuses, then the principal should have called the boy’s parents before calling the police.  It’s not, yet, a criminal matter UNLESS there is actually a law against disrupting an educational process. (I’ve never heard of such, but as I said earlier on, I’m not an expert on the laws of every county in our country.)

We as law enforcement professionals have to exercise our best judgment in every situation.  That’s nothing new.  In today’s world where legislators and various organizational officials try to create rules for every conceivable scenario or behavior, the lines between policy violation and violation of the law may be blurred.  It behooves us to use our best judgment.  My preference would be to err on the side of leniency but that’s a call each of us has to make.  All of us, whether we are law enforcement professionals, professional educators, parents or students, need to remember that no law or policy can be created to determine moral or immoral, right or wrong.  All we can create rules and laws for is legal and illegal in a given location/situation.


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