Under A Dollar For Ryan Turk’s Legal Education
May 26, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — It doesn’t take much money to make a child a criminal in Prince William County, Virginia. For Ryan Turk, sixty five cents was the cost of labeling him a thief and landing him a suspension from school.
The situation began May 10 at Graham Park Middle School in Triangle when Ryan, according to his mother, went back to the lunch line to get his milk.
It was then, WJLA reported, a Prince William County Police Officer accused Ryan of stealing the milk.
The school resource officer at Graham Park Middle School accused Ryan Turk of stealing sixty five cents’ worth of milk when he went back through the lunch line after forgetting the milk. It’s unsurprising, even though Turk’s family qualified for the school free lunch program. SROs have to justify their presence by criminalizing any element of juvenile behavior, even if it’s simple absent-mindedness. When the SRO decided to lay hands on Ryan, the problems began, because Turk didn’t see anyone other than a father figure justified as laying hands on him for false theft allegations. He “resisted,” and that meant trouble.
An officer grabbed Ryan when the boy was standing on the lunch line getting milk, his mother said.
“I yanked away from him, I told him to get off of me because he’s not my dad,” Ryan told the local outlet.
For this basic offense, asking a school resource officer to stop manhandling him, Turk was considered “disorderly.” That failure to comply meant Turk needed a lesson in social compliance with authority figures. Since Turk pulled away from the SRO in a “disorderly” fashion, that warranted fitting him with metal bracelets and taking him to the principal’s office for a good “learning” experience, including a search for any potential drugs.
He was then taken to the principal’s office and searched for drugs.
“Because he was fidgety, kept pulling on the strings of his pants, and laughing when we were trying to talk to him and just wouldn’t talk,” said his mother, Shamise Turk.
No one familiar with the legal system should be surprised that Ryan didn’t want to speak to the principal or School Resource Officer. No justification existed for accusing Ryan Turk of theft just because he hopped back in the lunch line to get a forgotten container of milk. After being accused of a theft, cuffed, and taken to the principal’s office, it’s completely understandable Turk would fidget, refuse to answer questions, and pull on the strings of his pants.
The offense with which he was charged, petit larceny, is the highest graded misdemeanor in Virginia. Ryan’s refusal to comply with state-sanctioned authority and show nothing less than complete deference to those with a badge meant there was no other choice but to suspend him.
The school spokesperson said Ryan was suspended for theft, being disrespectful and using his cell phone in school.
Read that again and understand the lunacy of Ryan Turk’s suspension. The “theft” was due to “concealment” of milk due Turk under a government assistance program for low income families. One can only imagine the “being disrespectful” was not holding his head in his hands on being cuffed and taken to the principal’s office, admitting every alleged crime running through each school official’s heads. How the cell phone figures into the equation is anybody’s guess, but if it’s good enough to charge a middle-school child with larceny, it’s good enough to suspend him for trying to call his mother after being detained. Understandably, his mother is furious.
“This is ridiculous… this is beyond embarrassing… he’s at home for 65 cents,” Shamise Turk said. “I’m angry, I’m frustrated, I’m mad. It just went too far. They are charging him with larceny, which I don’t have no understanding as to why he is being charged with larceny when he was entitled to that milk from the beginning.”
Shamise Turk might not understand why her son is suspended and facing larceny charges in juvenile court, but anyone familiar with the legal system gets it from the start. We make it a point to criminalize the poor for the crime of being poor. Our fear of the next big “super predator” means school resource officers, taken from their beats with a warrior mentality, are consistently on the prowl for their next collar, even if it’s a mistake and bogus charges are filed.
None of this will matter to Ryan Turk, who now must face a system that doesn’t care, one that would rather see him with a criminal record before he reaches high school over less than a dollar’s worth of milk, and a system with unlimited resources to make sure he pleads guilty rather than receives a full and effective defense. Ryan’s travel through the system means the only education he’ll receive during his suspension is how law enforcement treats kids they perceive as criminals. He’ll understand what it’s like to go before a judge and automatically be seen as a thief, rather than a poor child who simply forgot to grab his milk the first time through the lunch line.
Ryan Turk’s education in the legal system comes at the cheapest price of all, sixty five cents. Unfortunately, the fines, fees, and repercussions this incident will carry extends well beyond his time in middle school.