Number of Texas kids prosecuted for school threats growing rapidly
Newly released numbers confirm more Texas kids are being treated by public school educators as potential threats and facing life-changing consequences.
David Sims is one of them.
It was back in May on the campus of Bozman Intermediate that the 12-year-old made a mistake.
The Conroe kid, who is challenged with Autism, brandished an imaginary rifle in art class. Not long later, he was hauled out of the school under arrest.
"She just put handcuffs on me and told me I need to go with her," said Sims
"He didn't threaten anyone, he didn't do anything, but play," said Amy Sims, David's mother.
Turns out, the "zero tolerance" response is hardly uncommon.
In the weeks and months following the school massacre in Parkland Florida, campus calls for law enforcement intervention increased dramatically across the state of Texas.
"I think what we're seeing is a lot of schools who say 'we may not have more counselors yet or a threat assessment yet, but what we can do is send every last kid who says something silly to law enforcement,'" said Dustin Rynders, an attorney who advocates for children and their families.
Rynders' organization, Disability Rights-Texas, teamed with Texas Apple Seed to crunch hard numbers provided by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. That research revealed that more than 1,400 children were referred by school districts for possible prosecution between January and May, a six-fold increase over the previous year.
TJJD tells FOX 26 the numbers cited in the study are completely accurate.
"We are charging kids with felonies and that's not a history you can easily get over," said Rynders.
It is a stigma of criminality that advocates believe can inflict permanent damage on Texas children, many of whom are challenged with disabilities
"The majority of the increase in the number of charges is for children from ages 10 to 13," said Rynders.
The "Collateral Consequences" study identified Harris County as leading the state in the number of school related charges of "terroristic threat" or "exhibition of firearm" sent to the District Attorney for potential prosecution.
Rynders noted that the mere mention of a firearm by a student is enough to draw prosecution on the latter charge.
"We do not have the luxury of ignoring any threat reported to our office. The community depends on us to take their concerns seriously,” said John Jordan, who heads the Juvenile Division of the Harris County District Attorney's Office.