Previously, Missouri students who were caught fighting in school faced suspension or even misdemeanor charges. But, a new law that went into effect on January 1st could have some children facing felony charges.
But was that the intent of lawmakers? State Representative Charlie Davis says “no.”
“It had nothing to do with putting fifth graders in jail for fighting on the grounds. That’s ludicrous for somebody to think that we’re even going to do that,” explained Missouri State Representative Charlie Davis.
Davis says the new law was passed in response to a former Supreme Court ruling that states children could not be given the death penalty. And if a child commits a capitol offense in school, a judge would be left with slim options for sentencing.
“There are only two options that a court could give a juvenile who committed a capital offense. That was the death penalty or life in prison. With the death penalty being off the table, we had to create another sentencing guideline,” Davis added.
The new law will still force a judge to determine if a child between the ages of 12 and 17 will be tried as an adult. If that happens, the judge will decide what kind of sentences the offender will receive.
However, misdemeanor offenses won’t change. Davis says this law moves away from previous zero tolerance practices.
“The judge is the one that sits there and listens to the entire case, and I think they should have the ability to judge whether a child or an adult should be charged with capital offenses or if they should be charged with a misdemeanors or whatever the case may be,” explained Davis.