Black boy faces jail for taking milk while in school’s free lunch program

jail cell
Photo credit: Ana Aguirre Perez /

A Black boy in Virginia could have a criminal record for grabbing a milk that was worth 65 cents. The incident occurred at Graham Park Middle School days before the boy graduated.

According to WTVR, Ryan Turk forgot to grab his milk while in line and went back to retrieve the milk. A resource officer reportedly saw Turk take the milk and told him to put it back although Turk qualifies for free lunch. The officer said that Turk threw the milk back and became disorderly.

However, Turk’s mother saw surveillance video and she said that her son never attempted to conceal the milk and the officer grabbed her son by the neck. The officer then handcuffed Turk and charged him with a crime. Ryan could have handled the case through a diversion program, but his mother declined because she believes her son is innocent. As a result, Turk, who is now a freshman in high school, will face a court trial in November.

Turk’s case sheds light on the ongoing issue of Black kids who leave the public school system and go directly to the penal system. Black students are more likely to be suspended and arrested while in school. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, Black students are four times more likely to be suspended from school than Whites.

Small criminal charges can become detrimental to the future of Black kids. In 2010, Kalief Browder, 16, was arrested for stealing a backpack. He was eventually sentenced to three years in prison and placed in solitary confinement. The confinement caused him to become mentally unstable and he committed suicide in 2015.

By charging Turk with stealing a milk and forcing him to go to trial, it’s another example of how subtle forms of racism can destroy lives.

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