12-Year-Old Girl Arrested for Doodling on Desk
NEW YORK (CNN) -- There was no profanity, no hate. Just the words, "I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here 2/1/10 :)" scrawled on the classroom desk with a green marker.
Alexa Gonzalez, an outgoing 12-year-old who likes to dance and draw, expected a lecture or maybe detention for her doodles earlier this month. Instead, the principal of the Junior High School in Forest Hills, New York, called police, and the seventh-grader was taken across the street to the police precinct.
Alexa's hands were cuffed behind her back, and tears gushed as she was escorted from school in front of teachers and -- the worst audience of all for a preadolescent girl -- her classmates.
"They put the handcuffs on me, and I couldn't believe it," Alexa recalled. "I didn't want them to see me being handcuffed, thinking I'm a bad person."
Alexa is no longer facing suspension, according a spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Education. Still, the case of the doodling preteen is raising concerns about the use of zero tolerance policies in schools.
Critics say schools and police have gone too far, overreacting and using well-intended rules for incidents involving nonviolent offenses such as drawing on desks, writing on other school property or talking back to teachers.
"We are arresting them at younger and younger ages [in cases] that used to be covered with a trip to the principal's office, not sending children to jail," said Emma Jordan-Simpson, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund, a national children's advocacy group.
There aren't any national studies documenting how often minors become involved with police for nonviolent crimes in schools. Tracking the incidents depends on how individual schools keep records. Much of the information remains private, since it involves juveniles.
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