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Kyle Thompson likes playing football, playing video games, and hanging out with his friends. He’s also been under house arrest since last March and barred from school for six months. Why? His teacher wanted to see a note he had written, and she tried to take it from him. He thought she was teasing him about it and was playfully trying to get the note back. When he realized this wasn’t play, he immediately let her have the note. That misunderstanding got Kyle thrown in jail, and placed under house arrest.
Kyle is part of a national trend where children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished and pushed out. “Zero-tolerance” policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in school lead students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.
The ACLU believes that children should be educated, not incarcerated. We are working to challenge policies and practices that contribute to the school to prison pipeline.
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– You ready? Okay. – My name is Kyle Thompson. I like playing football, playing video games, hanging out with my friends. – The vice principal said, “If I had a school full of kids like yours, I’d be the happiest man in the district.” – Kyle’s a very sensitive kid. I mean, he’s– he’s fun to coach. He’s fun to be around. – For somebody with his personality to get in this kind of trouble is so shocking to me. I didn’t see it coming. I could never have imagined this. – Just on face value, I can’t–I just– I find it hard to believe. – I had a list in my bag of– It was called– it was titled “Hit List,” but it wasn’t really to hurt anybody, and my friend took it out of my notebook. I saw him take it out, so I took it back from him. And my teacher came over. She took it from me. And I got up, and I grabbed the paper, and we were pulling it back and forth. – All the witness statements said, “The teacher was laughing.” “The teacher was playing.” “We were all laughing” “We were all playing.” – When we were pulling it back and forth, she was laughing at first, so I thought it was just as a joke, but she got serious, and I let go. And then she left the class, and then the hall monitor came, and they–they escorted me to the office. The principal told the police officer to take me to the police station. The scariest part was probably being handcuffed inside of there. I felt that I deserved maybe a couple days of suspension at most, but I didn’t think it was really 180 days worth of– of a consequence. – When there’s activities up at the school, he can’t attend. He can’t go watch his sister. He can’t watch his, you know, former teammates play. – I can’t play football. So, really, I just throw the football around with my friends, play video games, watch TV. But I don’t really see my friends as much. – Here I am now, thousands of dollars later, six, seven months down the road, and all day long, when I’m gone, I worry about Kyle. My son has gotten progressively depressed. I still see remnants of, like, the old Kyle, but there’s a sadness there, and that kills me. I want him to be back in school. I need him to be in a school building, around other children. – It seems like it would be– it would be pretty hard going back after being out of school for a long time. But it’s something I would like to do.