Judge urges schools to cut down on arrests of students

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 9, 2015) -- A Marion County judge sent a letter to school superintendents urging them to cut down on the arrest of kids at school.

Judge Marilyn Moores said that with turnover in administrations and the rise in arrests, she felt it necessary to crack down on an existing policy.

"Locking up kids is not the right way to solve this problem," Moores said.

Moores said schools are arresting more kids and bringing them to Marion County Juvenile Detention on violations of school code, instead of the law.

An average of 1,500 kids are sent to the detention center each year, Moores said, with roughly 80 percent of those never being charged or sentenced.

"If we are sent kids that aren't appropriate for detention, we aren't going to keep them and process them. We're going to send them back (to school)," Moores said.

In her letter, Moores noted that "the lives of these youth are drastically affected as they experience the trauma of arrest and processing."

That's something James Wilson, president of Circle Up Indy, knows well.

"I was about nine years old when I went to juvenile (for the first time)," Wilson said.

That led to a life in and out of the center and later years spent in prison. With the help of mentors, Wilson eventually turned his life around and now mentors young people himself.

He understands how kids can get stuck in the system once they experience an arrest in juvenile detention.

"It was fun, you know, to get your wings for going to juvenile for getting in trouble," Wilson said.

In other words, when he went the first time, it became hard to get out.

Moores said she understands that schools have a lot on their plates and deal with parents who aren't helping to deal with discipline. It's why she had a message for parents, too.

"Support the teachers at your school and the school administration," Moores said.

She said it was time to tow a harder line with schools, though, in an effort to keep resources for the violent offenders who need them and find other ways to help kids with discipline issues turn things around.

"We have to draw the line because we don't want to make major criminals out of rowdy kids," Moores said.

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