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School to Prison Pipeline Alive And Well: Elementary School Students Arrested For Watching Playground Fight

Lawmakers calling on TBI, Dept of Justice to investigate Murfreesboro child arrests 

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Zacchaeus Crawford speaks to reporters about the arrest of 3 of his children. Credit: HELEN COMER/DNJ

At least 10 children ages 6 to 11 were arrested at Hobgood Elemetary School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee for reportedly not breaking up a fight that not only did not occur on school grounds–rather at a neighborhood basketball game–a fight that happened nearly a month before the arrests were made.  The utter absurdity of this arrest has led to two Nashville lawmakers to call for federal and state investigations of the event.

The children were handcuffed and taken to the Juvenile Justice Center in Murfreesboro on April 15.  Most incredibly, the misdemeanor charge against them all was the criminal responsibility for the conduct of others.  Thus the arrest was caused by inaction, not deliberate wrongdoing.  One of the Hobgood students reportedly shot video footage  on their cellphone and took it to school where it was seen by a teacher and later police.

The situation is equal parts laughable and shameful.

They were arrested entirely without cause.

It is also a dangerous reminder of how terms like the “School to Prison Pipeline” are very much legitimately a practice in low-income school districts nationwide.

According to First Baptist Church Pastor James McCarroll, who held a community meeting on the arrests, some of the students arrested were not even at the fight when it took place and some parents were not notified of the arrests until police came to the school to detain their child.

Murfreesboro Police Chief Karl Durr promised to investigate the arrests at the meeting.

The Rev. James McCarroll speaks at a community meeting at First Baptist Church on East Castle Street in Murfreesboro on Sunday about the arrest of several young students. (Photo: Brian Wilson / DNJ)
The Rev. James McCarroll speaks at a community meeting at First Baptist Church on East Castle Street in Murfreesboro on Sunday about the arrest of several young students. (Photo: Brian Wilson / DNJ)

Two state representatives are calling on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the US Department of Justice to investigate the arrests.

State Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said in a statement Tuesday “There is not rational justification for this act in our society,” adding further “We cannot begin to imagine the fear and confusion experienced by these young children. This experience will undoubtedly remain with them as they mature into adulthood and negatively mold their views of law enforcement officials. It is truly unfortunate that the inappropriate acts of a few, who are not representative of the other brave men and women who honorably serve our communities, will create a new level of distrust between our communities and law enforcement.”

Murfreesboro Police Department has been largely silent on the details, most likely because it involves juveniles. Upon arrest, the students were taken to a juvenile center and charged with the “misdemeanor of being criminally responsible for the conduct of others.”

Not everyone is reassured.  Democratic Rep.  Mike Stewart noted that Cheif Durr had called the handcuffing of kids as young as 6 a “learning experience” and does not think he understands the magnitude of the excessive force involved and that he cannot be properly relied upon to investigate and hold those responsible accountable.”

Stewart said “This is every parent’s nightmare, and we need to make sure that it is never repeated.”

As Stephanie Bohon at the University of Tennesse-Knoxville and founder of the Center for the Study of Social Justice notes “Children, by definition, are immature. It’s appropriate to ground them or give them detention, but when you deal with that kind of behavior byt handcuffing children and running them through the legal system, the first thing they learn is the police are there to punish them, and they are not there to help them.”

“They will forever be scarred because of that.”

About Stephen Pardue

Stephen is a freelance writer in Charlotte, North Carolina. He likes cats, B-movies, and arguing about philosophical points that no one cares about.

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