Target: H. Cary Payne, Chief Judge, Lynchburg Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court
Goal: Criticize criminal conviction of autistic child who was having a normal reaction to violent contact.
A twelve-year-old autistic boy was recently convicted of a felony in relation to an innocent mishap at school. Kayleb Moon-Robinson, a sixth-grade student from Virginia, was charged with disorderly conduct by a school resource officer after kicking a garbage can. A few weeks later when he left class early, the same officer attempted to forcibly grab Kayleb to bring him to the principal’s office, but the scared child resisted. The officer slammed the then 11-year-old on the ground and charged him with felony assault on a police officer.
While children all have trouble making rational judgements, Kayleb’s autism impairs his decision-making even further. Oftentimes, Autistic children react poorly when others touch them, and can have trouble expressing themselves in social situations. Unfortunately, the judge did not take this factor into account and convicted Kayleb of two counts of disorderly conduct and one count of felony assault on a police officer, which could stay on his record for the rest of his life.
More frequently than ever, Virginian schools are relying on police rather than school faculty or administrators to discipline students. The rate at which mischievous students are referred to police is three times higher in Virginia than the national average. Earlier this year, police laid four charges against a twelve-year-old girl who raised her fist at a police officer, and handcuffed a four-year-old for throwing blocks at another student.
Kicking a garbage can hardly warrants criminal charges, and a felony charge against a confused child is likely to serve no effective purpose. By deferring regular discipline to the police, Virginian schools are flooding the court system with juvenile offenders and creating a school-to-prison pipeline. Sign the petition below to condemn the insensitive conviction against Kayleb Moon-Robinson.
Dear Judge H. Cary Payne,
Kayleb Moon-Robinson, an autistic sixth grader, was recently convicted of two counts of disorderly conduct and one count of felony assault against a police officer for engaging in regular, childlike behavior. The boy kicked a garbage can, left class early, and struggled to free himself from a school resource officer who forcibly grabbed him.
Virginian schools are referring more discipline issues to the police, which has resulted in an influx of student offenders in the court system. Ninety percent of these charges are for “disorderly conduct,” or insignificant offenses such as throwing blocks or raising a fist in anger. Prosecuting these types of offenses is a ridiculous waste of resources and will only result in children being thrown into juvenile detention centers for regular behaviors. We, the undersigned, condemn the court’s insensitive and unfair handling of Kayleb’s case.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Brian Turner via Flickr Creative Commons