Young people may sometimes have trouble completely controlling their emotions. While in class in Missouri and across the country, they are often required to control their energy and emotions for hours on end. In addition, they are often required to spend a great deal of time around peers, some of whom they may not get along with. Under these circumstances, it may not be surprising that school fights occur. Unfortunately, a recent change in state law may leave some students who have done no more than call a classmate a name wondering about a criminal defense in response to felony charges.
The new law is set to go into place at the beginning of the year. At this time, it is unclear exactly how changes will impact schools. Under the law, those who "knowingly cause physical injury" to someone else could be accused of third-degree assault, which the law makes a felony. Additionally, harassment is also considered a felony, and some forms of bullying are considered harassment, leaving some school officials concerned that a student who calls another student a name could end up facing a felony charge.
Many school officials are left trying to determine how exactly the new laws will impact their students. While it does not specifically mention students, some school districts have already determined that the law applies to any student, regardless of his or her age. Opponents worry that the changes will result in an excess of students being referred to the police for what could be relatively minor infractions. Harassment, along with dozens of other infractions, must be reported to the police under state law.
In some cases, those who face punishments from institutions when they are young are more likely to face imprisonment. This phenomenon is known as the "school-to-prison pipeline." Some argue that these new changes will work against efforts to decrease the number of students referred to law enforcement. In some cases, having a person who has experience creating a criminal defense can help individuals in Missouri as they go through the criminal process. Because early punishments can have a lifelong effect on a student, help and guidance at this stage could help protect a student from such repercussions.
Source: stltoday.com, "Schools say students could be charged as felons for bullying or getting into a fight", Kristen Taketa, Dec. 23, 2016