Last month I wrote a piece for Al Jazeera America on zero tolerance, restraint, abuse, and the cult of compliance in our schools. I started with a report from the Center for Public Integrity and the story of Kayleb Moon-Robinson.
Kayleb Moon-Robinson is a 12-year-old boy who lives in Virginia. One day at school, he kicked a trash can and was charged with disorderly conduct in juvenile court. A few weeks later, he disobeyed a new rule (made just for him) that he stay behind in the classroom while his peers left. When the school resource officer (SRO) arrived to take him to the principal’s office for disobedience, Kayleb reportedly struggled and swore. The officer allegedly slammed the boy down on a desk and handcuffed him. Kayleb is now being charged with felony assault on a police officer, and his future is very much in doubt.
Kayleb is autistic and African-American. The state of Virginia wants to brand him a criminal. The Center for Public Integrity names it as the state most likely to send students to jail.
Now, the CPI reports that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has called for an investigation into why this is happening.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has asked members of his cabinet to recommend policy changes in response to a Center for Public Integrity report showing that schools in the commonwealth refer students to police and courts more often than other states.
“They’re going to look into it, and make recommendations and he will act on it,” Brian Coy, McAuliffe’s spokesman told the Center. “Virginia parents send their children to school to learn, not to end up in the juvenile-justice system.”
So this is a good step and a necessary response to the CPI report.
But there’s still Kayleb facing criminal charges. It’s time for the Governor to not just act in a macro way to change policy, but also to focus on the individual and fix this.