“Disturbing a school” or acting “in an obnoxious manner” is a crime in South Carolina, but the law is unconstitutionally vague, charges the ACLU. Thousands of students — disproportionately African-American — have faced charges, says the civil rights group.
The ACLU is challenging the law on behalf of Niya Kenny, who was arrested last fall after a school police officer violently removed a classmate who’d refused the teacher’s order to put away her phone.
Kenny stood up and cursed the officer, but didn’t interfere with the arrest, she told the New York Times.
Kenny was calling attention to police abuse, according to the ACLU’s account:
Fields picked the girl up, flipped her in her desk, and then grabbed an arm and a leg to throw her across the room. Niya stood up and called out, she recalled later. “Isn’t anyone going to help her?” she asked. “Ya’ll cannot do this!”
Niya was arrested, handcuffed, charged as an adult, and taken to jail.
Afraid to return to school, Kenny dropped out, missing her senior year, and earned a GED. She’s set to appear in court on “disturbing” charges in September.
The ACLU is also challenging another law, which makes it a crime for students to conduct themselves in a “disorderly or boisterous” fashion.
Let’s concede that teachers need to enforce order in the classroom. Does it make sense to criminalize disruptive, “obnoxious” and “boisterous” behavior? How many of us would have escaped a criminal record if we’d been held liable in court for being obnoxious?
Increasingly, school police officers are equipped with Tasers.