January 8, 2015
Punta Arenas, Chile
Kiera really liked making things react together and was going to try to make a baking soda and vinegar volcano, but the teacher said that was for kids in lower grades.
As an honor student, she wanted to do something impressive, so she looked around for something more advanced.
After putting two ounces of toilet bowl cleaner into a container, she dropped in a ball of aluminum foil, and covered it when—pff! The lid popped off and smoke started pouring out.
Not one to get in trouble for anything, Kiera felt pretty nervous as she was called into the principal’s office.
But little did she know just how serious her punishment would be.
For her botched chemistry experiment she was charged with possession of a weapon and the assembling of a bomb on campus.
So that day, rather than leaving the office with demerits, she was escorted out in handcuffs.
The charges were dropped after outrage from the community, but Kiera’s humiliation and criminal record remained.
Put into a center for kids that have been kicked out of school, her whole education was thrown off track. No more cello lessons, no more German classes, and no more dignity when entering the classroom.
Once an aspiring scientist, do you think she will ever try an experiment without thinking of how the handcuffs cut into her wrists?
In classes, do you think she will ever dare to argue against a teacher or do anything that could possibly have her sent back to the principal’s office?
Hers is far from being an isolated case. In fact, Kiera is just one of over 260,000 students that were reported to law enforcement by their schools in 2012, the most-recent available data.
Throwing an eraser, chewing gum in class, wearing too much perfume—these have all landed kids with misdemeanor charges or in policy custody.
This is all a part of the authorities’ “zero-tolerance policy”.
“You cuss out a teacher, you get a ticket, period”, said one bureau chief.
What do you think it does to a kid to be labeled so early on as a criminal? I can assure you, it’s nothing good.
Their likelihood of graduating from high school plummets, as does the proportion with jobs by the age of 25.
It’s often not made clear in the records what exactly the offence was, so no matter how trivial the “incident” that took place, these kids will be haunted by their criminal records for the rest of their lives.
Take Kiera for example—who is going to hire a girl who has it on file that she tried to make a bomb at her school?
It took 17-months of legal battles with help from the American Civil Liberties Union and thousands of petitions signed to support her case in order for Kiera to get her record expunged.
But she was lucky her case had made headlines, while most continue to struggle alone.
With their opportunities limited and already being labeled criminals, many who otherwise wouldn’t have, go on to engage in more criminal activity.
Of course the threat of government punishment only rises with adulthood.
Over the past 20 years, police have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests, so that now nearly one-third of the American population are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database.
But what are these arrests even for? Murder, theft, and fraud only make up a minor proportion of this number. The rest are for a range of violations that are generally victimless and often absurd.
This is now a country where collecting your own rainwater or feeding the homeless is a crime.
By criminalizing every activity under the sun for both adults and children, the government is using the threat of violence (or sometimes actual violence) to create a docile, obedient, and subservient population.
You never know what could be against the law, so you’re better off playing it safe by trying not to step out of line in any way possible.
Critical-thinking, creativity, dissent, and experimentation have all been replaced with fear, as the people in the ‘Land of the Free’ are gradually made into obedient serfs.