Can Students Be Legally Prosecuted for School Fights?

Can Students Be Legally Prosecuted for School Fights?
As violence grows on campus, more and more public school students face legal prosecution for their misbehavior. Learn about the growing trend of legal consequences for on-campus fights and disobedience.
The consequences for school fights may no longer be limited to a visit to the principal’s office and detention.  In light of the last decade’s rise in school violence, many students find themselves facing legal consequences for their misbehavior on campus. 

In years past, school fights and bullying would only result in school-based punishments, such as suspension or detention.  Today, however, a rising number of middle school and high school teens are actually being arrested for their in-school malfeasances. 
 
School Fights: The Rising Threat
 
Public schools across the country are reporting more severe punishments for school fights and student misbehavior.  For example, WRAL News of Wake County, North Carolina, reported that three students were arrested after several fights erupted at the local Knightdale High School.  According to reports, the police were called to the school after multiple fights broke out among students. 
 
Allegedly, one 16 year old student and another 17 year old student were engaged in crimes such as “disorderly conduct” and “simple affray,” resulting in the two students’ arrests.  In addition, an older 18 year old student was also arrested, as this particular student allegedly tried to join in the fight, and reports also suggest that the 18 year old student “Took a swing at an officer who was trying to detain him.” 
 
While students 18 years of age and older are understandably tried as adults, many community members question whether the 16 and 17 year old students should have been similarly reprimanded, as they are technically minors. 
 
In spite of public uncertainty, many school leaders argue that law enforcement interventions were imperative.  Approximately 40 police officers were required to rush to the Knightdale High School in order to break up the immense student fight.  Erupting in the cafeteria of the school, an estimated 1,900 students could have been in the lunch room at the time of the fights, and police intervention was critical for keeping innocent students safe from the danger.   
 
How Young is Too Young for Legal Interventions?
 
Outside of Wake County, other public schools in the United States have also implemented legal interventions and punishments – often for very young students. 
 
In fact, as The Statesman Journal reveals, two middle school students were arrested from their Marion County public school due to their misbehavior.  According to Silverton Police Sergeant Jerry Blaylock, a fight involving four to six students broke out at Mark Twain Middle School, located Oregon.  When the fight erupted after school, police officers broke up the students and ordered the adolescents to go home. 
 
Unfortunately, 45 minutes later, police officers were called back to the scene; not only did the fight continue, but nearby witnesses reported seeing one of the adolescents flash a handgun.  Before police arrived, in an attempt to prevent serious harm to the students, the witness reportedly “Tackled the teen while another adult took the gun away.”  Due to the severity of the crime and the reliable accounts of the witnesses, officers responding to the scene quickly escorted two of the teens, ages 13 and 16, into police custody.  Upon their arrest, both juveniles were charged with disorderly conduct.  Adding to this charge, the teen allegedly holding the gun was further charged with “unlawful possession of a firearm and second-degree assault.”
 
Historically, school leaders have attempted to regulate student misbehavior through on-campus punishments and parental intervention.  However, many fear that today’s violent on-campus outbursts result in unpredictable danger for both other students and faculty members – which explains the rise in police intervention. 
 
According to ABC News, this may be the case in Queen Creek, Arizona, where “11 students were arrested and charged with aggravated assault after a fight with teachers and staff.”   Some of the students allegedly used broomsticks as weapons, inflicting injuries onto others.  Subsequently, the police reacted by arresting and booking all students engaged in the brawl who were 18 years or older.  Students below the age of 18 were also arrested and booked; however, these juveniles were sent to the nearby Southeast Juvenile Detention Center, while the adult students were sent directly to the community’s main jail. 
 
Offering his own opinion on the charges presented to the teens, Queen Creek Sheriff Arpairo argued, “Teachers have a tough enough job today without having to go to school every day worrying about being physically assaulted like this. Hopefully, these students will be held responsible by the criminal justice system.”
 
The days of simple detention have faded, and today’s public school students may face legal reprimands for their misbehavior.  Hopefully, this trend will deter teens from engaging in acts of school violence, ultimately creating safer campus environments.

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