Teen Accused of Stealing 65-Cent Carton of Milk

30 Sep , 2016

Teen Accused of Stealing 65-Cent Carton of Milk at Middle School to Stand Trial The headline unnerved me.

My daughter is currently a graduating senior at a university in Central Florida. She attended a high school where she experienced a traumatizing incident reminiscent of the one currently being lived by young Ryan Turk while a student at Graham Park Middle School in Virginia.

As I read Victoria St. Martin’s account of what occurred, I began to experience that same sick feeling I was forced to feel in the days, weeks, and ultimately months following my daughter’s ordeal. Join me beneath this dark cloud as I recall a few of the lowlights.

I decided to quickly check my office voice mail before dashing off to class. “Ms. Scott, please call Deputy __ regarding your daughter.”  I called the school back immediately. Naturally, my first thought was, “Is she okay? Has there been an accident?” After all, we are talking about an Honor student who gets along with most people. (It’s high school, so let’s be realistic. Students bully, cheat, fight, incite, you name it. On the rare occasions when attempts were made to bully her, I had coached her on de-escalation techniques or solicited the aid of a dean and saw the matter resolved.) “__High School, how may I direct your call?” 

“This is Dr. Scott returning Deputy __‘s call.”

“Please hold.”

“Deputy __“

“Hi, Deputy __, this is Dr. Scott. I just listened to your message regarding my daughter.”

“Oh, yes. Good timing. I have her right here. Well, I’m calling because she is being charged with trespassing. Now you have two options: You can either have her processed in a regular court of law, which brings with it a police record or you can opt for juvenile court.”

“Okay, let’s back up, Deputy. First of all, trespassing where?” 

“She was trespassing yesterday at the middle school. Some time after school ended here, she made her way to the middle school and when asked to leave, she refused.”

“Deputy __, the information you are providing me is not news to me. I am aware of exactly what occurred at the middle school. My daughter talks to me. Now, since this is the first I am hearing of such options for students who attempt to visit former teachers, I need to have a few questions answered.”

“Ma’am, I have her on surveillance tape.  Furthermore, I need to submit this paperwork by 2:00, so I need an answer on which option you choose.”

“I can be there in ten minutes. We can then discuss this in person, because these are procedures of which I am unaware, and I read every word of the Student Code of Conduct and every other form that’s sent home by the school. I will see you shortly.”

When I arrived, the deputy was “off site”. A series of events followed which included a night of unrest for my daughter (she could not stop trembling and had trouble getting over the fact that he interrogated her prior to calling me, saying such things as, “You’re smart not to use an alias.”

This situation became my priority, so I began to exhaust every resource I believed would garner results: I requested a copy of the deputy’s report, since both the principal and assistant principal of the middle school assured me they had not pressed charges (the deputy, who was not on site at the time of the alleged trespass, pressed the charges); I requested, in writing, a copy of the video; I filed a complaint with the school district’s Equity office; I met with the principal and assistant principal and requested the principal call the juvenile court counselor’s office while I was there with my daughter; I called to make the deputy’s superiors aware.

My daughter and I attended a meeting with the Juvenile court counselor who, when he heard her side of the story, asked her, “Do you feel like you did anything wrong? Do you believe you are guilty of these charges?” She answered no. He then produced a copy of the report filed by the deputy and suggested I compare it to the copy I received. The deputy had drafted two very different reports. The one I received was a third-person write-up of the incident as observed by an employee of the middle school. The one presented to me during our appointment with the counselor painted my daughter as one “rumored to have a violent streak, hostile, and belligerent.” 

The outcome? Months of stress and what felt like a battle, with all the trips to the county sheriff’s office, principal’s office, and high school. The only person who followed up with me was the equity officer, who only reported that she had engaged in fact finding and wanted to know if I wished to pursue things further. I am able to read people quite well, so I understood her statements to mean pursuit beyond this point would be uncomfortable for her (serious cases rarely crossed her desk). Nothing ever came of the charges. I thank God for that.

I can relate to this family and hope the best for them. If the citizens in that county are not in a frenzy at the poor stewardship of taxpayer dollars on something that should have been handled with demerits (if they are still used) or in-school suspension, or a note home, then I am doubly saddened. This is clearly a “note home” issue.

The day that I need to rely on a trained deputy to address a carton of milk in the possession of a child is the day I need to turn in my chalk (or cafeteria apron). And on that same day, the school resource officer needs to turn in his badge. Period.