According to the U.S. Department of Education, Missouri is ranked in the top three states, behind Florida and Mississippi, for the highest number of elementary school suspensions from 2011 to 2012. Since then, physical altercations have drastically increased.
In an effort to prevent classroom fights in the future, the Midwestern state recently passed legislation that would classify the behavior as Class E and D felonies. The new bill specifies that regardless of age if students are caught on school grounds as a participant in a physical altercation or instigating unruly activity, they are liable to be criminally charged and receive potential jail time.
Missouri’s Hazelwood School District sent out an alarming notice to parents via their website notifying of the new changes in policy. Bypassing the options of a misdemeanor, families were informed the fighting will soon distinguish as third- and fourth-degree assaults.
“Student(s) who are caught fighting in school, bus or on school grounds may now be charged with a felony (no matter the age or grade level), if this assault is witnessed by one of the School Resource Officers/police officers (SRO) or if the SRO/local law enforcement officials have to intervene.”
Erica Ussery, a former student of Hazelwood Central High School and now a parent of a child attending school in the same district has expressed her concerns to Fox News.
“Are we really trying to throw these kids’ futures away by giving them a felony charge for something they do in their adolescence, giving them an adult charge when we can do something else to get in front of the situation?” she said.
Despite the outrage by Ussery and other parents in the district baffled by the harsh laws put in place, the new ruling will take effect Jan 1, 2017.