Missouri lawmakers are under fire from civil rights groups over a new statute that makes some student fights a felony, the Huffington Post reports.
Several school districts notified parents that the new law takes effect on New Year’s Day. It treats school fights as a class E felony, which could land students in prison for up to four years. Prior to that, most fights were treated as misdemeanors.
State Rep. Elijah Haahr is trying to assuage concerns, saying that many people are misinterpreting the law. He said existing laws already permit authorities to charge students with a felony for injuring another student in a school brawl.
Under the new measure, Haahr said, there’s a new classification and higher fines.
His explanation, however, does not calm fears about how the statute will be enforced. Missouri has one of the highest rates of disproportionately punishing students of color. They are concerned that the measure will perpetuate the school-to-prison pipeline.
“If the past is any indicator, I think it’s fair to say that based on documented research we can presume that this law will be unfairly, improperly and disproportionately used against student of color, most often Black males,” Jeffrey Mittman, director of the Missouri American Civil Liberties Union, told The Post.
SOURCE: Huffington Post