Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tweenie felons

“I knew it was bad but I didn’t think I’d get caught.” That’s what 12 year old Shelby Sendelbach said after getting caught.

What did she do? Make a bomb threat? Sell drugs? Cheat on a test? Nope: Shelby used a Sharpie to write “I love Alex” on a graffiti-covered gym wall. The police Mirandized her and charged her with a felony. The Katy, Texas ISD then assigned Shelby to an alternative, disciplinary school for four months.

Graffiti writing is a Level 4 infraction, the same level that applies to making terroristic threats, possessing dangerous drugs, and assaulting with bodily injury. Shelby is just a step away from Level 5, reserved for murder, possessing firearms, committing aggravated or sexual assault, and arson. What legislature wrote this law?! The only good news is that the Katy ISD Board of Trustees will likely have some new members after the next election.

In the meantime, Katy residents may want to attend the next board meeting on July 23rd. But if you go don’t expect much sunshine: the Texas Open Meeting Law allows the Board the privilege of having a private, closed meeting to discuss matters related to student discipline. Hmmm. An Open Meeting Law that allows privileged private meetings. Can you spell George Orwell?

This is not Katy’s first foray into the national media severely punishing lawbreaking students. In 2003 13 year old straight-A student Christina Lough was removed as president of the student council and honor society and suspended after bringing a pencil sharpener with a 2-inch blade to school. Two years later a Texas judge dismissed her lawsuit.

The moral of this study? It’s OK to be a 12 year old. Just don’t get caught.

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