Reposted from a story online by Jennifer Naylor Gesick June 10, 2013
With new policies on school safety emerging nationwide, it is hard to separate special needs-associated behaviors from threatening ones that may warrant a student arrest.
When a sobbing 11-year-old Odette Baumeister was handcuffed and removed from Rapid Valley Elementary in March, it was the 10th time the fifth-grader had been arrested, taken to a juvenile detention center or suspended this year.
According to her thick folder of disciplinary records, the arrests were usually the result of acting out by crying, throwing things, hitting herself or teachers attempting to restrain her. She once was arrested for running out of a building and splashing a teacher with water from a fountain.
At least one of those arrests resulted in the girl — who in many ways resembles a typical 11-year-old — having to spend a night in a locked cell in juvenile hall.
Her grandmother, who says she has met with school officials several times to discuss the arrests, is astounded that a child who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder has been treated like a chronic juvenile offender.
“She should never be arrested for that. Why was she taken to jail if she was hurting herself? They should have called an ambulance,” said Susanne Baumeister, who added the school district does not always contact her immediately when Odette becomes a discipline problem.
Odette, however, is far from the only child in the Rapid City Area Schools system to have an encounter with law enforcement while in school.
School policy, which provides for a full-time police presence in schools and a threat assessment protocol implemented after the Columbine High School mass shooting, has led to an environment where an emotionally disturbed girl can be arrested repeatedly for actions that would not always constitute a crime outside of school.
The policies also have prompted a study by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of Rapid City schools and their safety program.
Odette was one of 68 student arrests during the 2012-13 school year in the Rapid City School District. Of that group, 35 were middle school students, 25 high school students and eight were elementary students.
Overall, police responded to a total of 756 school calls from May 2012 to May 2013. Police said that not all of the calls were necessarily for students. Of those calls, 67 were for assaults, 34 for emergencies, 74 for disturbances, 68 for drugs, 27 for runaways, 59 for theft and 99 were for what are termed juvenile problems, according to department records.
Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender said that complaints of a juvenile problem at schools are often unclear initially.
“A juvenile problem is a generic classification used when no specific crime has been reported,” Allender wrote in an email to the Journal. “For example, it could be ‘there are kids who look like they’re up to something’ or it could be a general behavior issue with the child not following instructions or not following the rules. The bottom line: it’s generic.”
Rapid City police officers and Pennington County sheriff’s deputies — now known as liaison officers — have been patrolling school hallways since at least 1978. The school policy states the officers are there to “prevent juvenile delinquency.”
And after the Columbine High School mass shooting in 1999, the district implemented a new School Threat Assessment Response, or STAR, protocol. In student handbooks, the program is defined as an attempt to “assure that threats of violence in a school environment are addressed whenever possible, before they occur.”
Troy Volesky, director of special education at Rapid City schools, said in an Individualized Education Program meeting with Baumeister in April that the school sometimes initiates threat protocol to refer Odette to law enforcement when she begins to hurt herself or throw a tantrum. The meeting was held as part of a program that is mandated by federal law for special-needs students like Odette.
Baumeister said she does not believe the policy is applied fairly to her daughter.
Read more at School district policy leads to arrests for emotionally disturbed fifth-grader.
– See more at: http://specialedpost.com/2013/06/10/special-needs-student-arrested-over-school-safety-policy/#sthash.lttkQTJs.dpuf