Earlier this week, a 17-year-old high school student pleaded guilty to charges related to an incident on a school bus. Her case illustrates a serious problem with the juvenile justice system as well as with the relationship between the Wake County school system and the Raleigh Police Department.
On March 7, 2014, the girl got into a fight with another student and, according to authorities, punched the student several times. When she got to school, she met with administrators who suspended her for five days. She was then arrested by a school resource officer — that is, a member of Raleigh’s police force stationed at the school. She was charged as an adult and sent to the Wake County Detention Center, where she was housed with adult women.
She was released three weeks later.
The girl is a ward of the state, in the custody of Child Protective Services. Held on an unsecured bond, the girl could have left at any time. Sort of.
Because she is a minor, the county could only release her to a parent or guardian. That person would then assume responsibility for her while the charges were pending. That person, however, did not exist.
The girl was without a foster home, and CPS had nowhere for her to live. So she sat in jail for three weeks. As her attorney said before the girl’s release, “Jail is essentially a temporary foster care placement.”
After pleading guilty to a couple of misdemeanors, the 17-year-old was released to a group home. Later in the day, apparently, a foster home was found for her. Her aunt was at the hearing. It was there that the woman learned of her niece’s three-week stint in jail. Why, she asked, had no one told her sooner?
Privacy concerns have kept the media from learning more about the high-schooler’s foster care situation. Neither CPS nor the school is able to discuss the details of the case publicly. Their silence, however, has not kept critics from voicing their concerns about the situation.
Critics have also been quite vocal about the role of the school resource officer in the matter. We’ll get into that more in our next post.
North Raleigh News, “Southeast Raleigh High senior Selina Garcia released from jail after 3 weeks,” Sarah Barr, March 27, 2014
News & Observer, “Foster care status strands Wake student in jail three weeks after school bus fight,” Sarah Barr, March 25, 2014