By William Spivey
At Graham Park Middle School in Prince William County, VA they have a strange idea about educating students. They insisted on having 15-year-old Ryan Turk, suspended from school and charged with larceny for allegedly stealing a carton of milk from the lunch line valued at 65 cents. This “theft” is of milk Ryan was already entitled to free due to his participation in the school’s free lunch program. The incident happened May 10, 2016, and he’s scheduled to go to trial in November.
Ryan indicated he forgot to get a carton of milk when he initially passed through the line and went back to get it. The School Resource Officer (SRO) grabbed Ryan according to his mother and Ryan admits to “yanking away” and telling the officer to “get off me, you’re not my dad.” Because of his “resistance,” he was handcuffed by the on-duty Prince William County Police Officer and ultimately charged with larceny and suspended from school for “concealing” the free milk. Also noted in the suspension was that Ryan was allegedly “disrespectful” and used his cell phone.
Ryan Turk is getting an education in Virginia, not I think the one they imagine. He’s been introduced to the Classroom to Prison Pipeline where children become introduced to the Criminal Justice System at an early age because schools choose to hand off discipline to the police instead of taking responsibility on their own. It goes without saying that the students most often arrested, suspended and expelled are of color. No doubt the prism they’re seen thru makes them appear “disrespectful” as opposed to willful or boisterous like their white counterparts. If Ryan Turk had placed his hands on the officer the way he was handled that would be assault. Apparently, the officer (who all this time has gone unnamed) has a different set of rules when manhandling children.
I wonder is there nowhere an adult involved who’ll recognize the schools and the police have taken this way too far. Is there no one to say there was no crime, this is not the appropriate way to proceed. A Principal, the police department, a district attorney? This calls for protest. This calls for shaming the school and the court for not immediately dismissing these charges. I encourage all that read this to call the school at (703) 221-2118 and express your outrage. Pass this along and others to do the same. Who that has a child or grandchild can say with certainty this could never happen to them?
Lastly, go to Being Black At School and look for a way you can help whether it be by buying a book or making a donation. We ignore this situation at the peril of us all.