03-09-2007, 01:44 AM #1
Child Charged with Felony for Setting off School Alarm
A Cryar Intermediate School fifth-grader is facing a state jail felony charge for accidentally setting off a school fire alarm, according to his parents.
The 11-year-old was arrested Friday at the Conroe Independent School District campus and spent the weekend in juvenile detention.
Now, His parents hope they can keep other children and parents from going through what they and their son have endured the past few days.
Conroe ISD officials said they take such offenses against the district's zero-tolerance policy "very seriously."
The public outcry recently in Texas and across the nation over zero-tolerance arrests has led one state lawmaker to reintroduce a bill requiring school districts to prove a student knowingly commits an offense before he or she can be arrested.
On Friday afternoon, the boy's mother, Kerri Rasco, of Conroe, got the kind of phone call no parent wants and probably doesn't think they will get about a child as young as 11.
"I was at work about 2 p.m. when I got a phone call from the sixth-grade assistant principal at the school," Rasco said. "She said my son pulled the fire alarm. 'That is a felony offense,' she told me. I was shocked."
Rasco said the assistant principal then put a CISD police officer on the phone with her.
"The officer informed me he was arresting my son," Rasco said. "They cuffed him there at the school and took him to juvenile detention."
Later that afternoon, Rasco received another call, this one from a juvenile detention official.
"They called and told me they had (her son)," she said. "They told me they were going to keep him over the weekend, until his detention hearing on Monday. I pleaded and begged with them, but they said, 'We have to.'
"My son swears he didn't mean to set it off. He told me he just touched it."
In the Texas Penal Code, a false alarm offense - which includes setting off a fire alarm or making a false 9-1-1 call - is a Class A misdemeanor, unless it involves a public school. Then the charge automatically becomes a state jail felony offense, punishable by 180 days to two years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.
Because of student confidentiality constraints, CISD officials cannot address the specifics of the Cryar Intermediate student's arrest, according to spokeswoman Kay Galindo.
"It is a felony offense for a student or any other person to pull a fire alarm or make a false 9-1-1 call," she said. "The district takes these matters very seriously due to the fact that emergency response teams must respond to these alerts."
With zero tolerance, a policy that public schools implemented after the deaths of 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, prosecutors take a false alarm offense "more seriously," according to Bill Patillo, a former juvenile prosecutor for Montgomery County who is now in private practice representing juveniles.
"Those few cases (like Columbine) did make us more acutely aware," Patillo said. "It used to be just a prank. Now you have to treat every one more seriously, and we would definitely be more forceful. There's a clear difference between pre-Columbine and post-Columbine."
When he was a prosecutor, Patillo said, he would see a "couple" of arrests each year of students who set off fire alarms. He also said he "absolutely supports the schools 100 percent" in arresting and charging students in such cases.
"The only ones we went after to adjudicate were problem kids," he said.
Rasco and her son's father, James Marville, of Conroe, have hired attorney Tay Bond to represent their son. The boy was released into his parents' custody after a detention hearing Monday morning before County Court-at-Law #1 Judge Dennis Watson.
"It is our hope that we move this case where the parents can take appropriate action," Bond said Monday. "Because of the age of the child, if the allegations are true, this is a good time for the parents to have a say-so in the discipline of their child. It's compelling that the parents have stepped up in handling this, and that's not always the case. In this zero-tolerance case, the possibly overzealous and understandable response of the police department is appropriate at the beginning, but not at this stage. My task is to let parents be parents.
"Schools have one policy across the board, and it's not always appropriate."
Nationwide, parents and even lawmakers believe zero-tolerance policies have gone too far. Recently, a 6-year-old boy in Florida upset that a friend's grandmother had died, was arrested and charged with felony battery after he threw books at his teacher and a police officer.
State Sen. Jon Lindsay, R-Houston, has reintroduced legislation to make zero-tolerance policies more tolerant. Senate Bill 126, which passed in the Senate but failed in the House during the 2003 legislative session, would require school district officials to prove a student had the culpable mental state required to commit a felony offense - or knew he or she was committing an offense.
"What I'm trying to do is give discretion to school superintendents or principals to use some common sense instead of saying, 'We have to arrest a student,'" he said Monday.
So far, Lindsay has received a lot of reaction - mostly favorable - from individuals. "Mostly people who've gone through things like this," he said. "But, I'm not getting a lot (of reaction) from school districts.
"I think school superintendents like a law they can hide behind so they don't make mistakes."
Now, the 11-year-old boy, who is suspended from school until Feb. 3, can't go anywhere without a parent or guardian, according to his father.
"He can't ride his bike or go skateboarding by himself," Marville said. "He's never been in trouble before. I was real shocked.
"Everybody I've talked to about this had no idea a kid could be arrested for this."
Nancy Flake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©Houston Community Newspapers Online 2007
03-09-2007, 04:00 AM #2Registered User
- Join Date
- May 2004
I understand the schools being tired of kids doing things like this and them wanting to get tough but....this boy hasn't been a trouble maker at school and has never been into any kind of trouble. I think there are some things to look at before a child is cuffed and taken to detention. Did the boy just touch the alarm and it went off? I doubt it. I don't think that they go off that easily do they? If they did it seems the alarms would be going off all of the tme. Kids goof off in the halls all of the time and shove each other around and the alarms probably take their share of bumps and thumps and touches.
I still believe that a felony is to tough if the boy hasn't ever been into trouble before. He has been suspended from school....because of the trouble he is in now he probably wishes he had never pulled the alarm. A lesser charge would be alright and be a good reminder for him to continue to stay out of trouble. A felony is a little extreme though in my opinion.
03-09-2007, 04:30 AM #3Former Member
- Join Date
- Nov 2003
- lala land
Holy crap. An 11 year old kid did a dumb thing without understanding the ramifications. Let's crucify him.
What is this world coming to???
03-09-2007, 08:35 AM #4
After the boys at Jonesboro, Arkansas pulled the alarm and shot teachers and students as the exited the buildings, this has to be considered more than just a prank. It isn't just the kids marching out of the school any more. In some schools everything shuts off. That means if the carfeteria is connected to the school all of their equipment shuts down. Officials such as fire department and police department may be automatically notified. Any test that is being given is disrupted. The educational process is disrupted for more than the few minutes the drill takes. I don't think it should be a felony but I think he should be punished severely and should pay a hefty fine. This is more than just a childish prank that kids can laugh about and maybe others try it on a regular basis.
03-09-2007, 01:08 PM #5Former Member
- Join Date
- Feb 2007
Wow, so if an 11 year old pulls a fire alarm in school in Texas he is arrested, taken into detention and, charged with a felony. But if he is raped by the adults in charge of his detention facillity. It is covered up, ignored and the pervs are allowed to walk the streets.
03-09-2007, 01:18 PM #6Registered User
Originally Posted by Mabel
- Join Date
- Sep 2004
03-09-2007, 01:23 PM #7Former Member
- Join Date
- Mar 2005
- Central Texas
It was just on the news here today that students will no longer be able to bring any type of aerosol cans to school. They were being used to set off smoke alarms in the schools. I also find it hard to set off a fire alarm by bumping or touching it. The kinds I've seen in schools, have to be pulled down. I think the parents should have just been called, not have the child arrested! Was this policy explained to all the children and parents? Not sure it was done from the article.
03-09-2007, 04:49 PM #8Registered User
- Join Date
- Feb 2007
When I was in 4th grade I got detention for dialing 911 from a payphone in school. My friends dared me and I did. I thought if I hung up right away no one would know.
I cried so hard when I got caught. The detention and getting in trouble from my parents was enough for me to not ever do it again. I didn't need to be arrested.
Another quick story -
I work in IT. At my last job, our phone equipment was pretty old and all outgoing calls showed up on caller IDs like they were from the main line, rather than the extension. You also had to dial '9' to get an outside line, then '1' before the number. I can't even tell you how many times the front desk got calls from 911 operators calling to see if there was an emergency. They had to put them on hold, call me so that I could check the phone alarm, then I had to call the extension that set off the alarm and verify that they were ok. If they didn't pick up the phone, I had to go find them. This happened atleast twice a day. When I called the employee, I would always say "Oh good, you're alive", they'd ask why and I'd inform them that they called 911.
It never failed "they didn't realize" they did it.
I sent numerous e-mails to the whole company telling them that if they even think they might have accidentally called 911, to call the front desk and let them know. Or hell, stay on the line and tell the operator it was an accident.
The point of my story is that our company was never once reprimanded or fined for wasting so much time with the emergency personnel. Yet this little boy gets arrested and kept overnight? I have dealt with adult morons who have done this on more than one occasion and nothing happens to them.
Because it's a business? There are crazy murderous people at businesses too.
03-09-2007, 11:22 PM #9
Glenn Beck reported on this last nite, and supposedly the actual alarm was not set off, the cover over the box was off and the boy was caught trying to put it back on. The boy is an honor student, never in any trouble, has parents with Master's degrees, and the dad is a teacher. I know of kids here in my town who brought a knife or threatened to bring a knife and absolutely nothing was done about it. One case is the principal who let the pedophile into the school to take pics of kids and one little girl was molested. She is still principal and certainly not up on a felony. The other case involved me the other day at the school due to kids' arguing. I asked if the boy who threatened to bring a knife was searched, and of course he wasn't. It was "investigated" by a principal, but no search. It's time for the people to demand common sense and fairness or take their kids into private schools and home school by the droves.
03-10-2007, 01:47 AM #10Former Member
- Join Date
- Feb 2005
[QUOTE=txsvicki]Glenn Beck reported on this last nite, and supposedly the actual alarm was not set off, the cover over the box was off and the boy was caught trying to put it back on. The boy is an honor student, never in any trouble, has parents with Master's degrees, and the dad is a teacher. I know of kids here in my town who brought a knife or threatened to bring a knife and absolutely nothing was done about it. One case is the principal who let the pedophile into the school to take pics of kids and one little girl was molested. She is still principal and certainly not up on a felony. The other case involved me the other day at the school due to kids' arguing. I asked if the boy who threatened to bring a knife was searched, and of course he wasn't. It was "investigated" by a principal, but no search. It's time for the people to demand common sense and fairness or take their kids into private schools and home school by the droves.[/QUOTE]
I applaud this!!!
I home school my autistic son because of all the crazy stories we read of children being abused or arrested. I live in FL so arresting disabled children is like their way of not complying with federal law.
I just could not risk that some ignorant person would push him over the edge and then blame him.
For a long time he had an obsession with fire alarms (he would not pull it because the alarm itself he cannot tolerate) but he also liked fire extinguishers and always wanted to touch them.
Seeing one would mezmorize him.
I have learned enough to understand that children learn through touch, feel, sound, sight..
Some are not always on the same scale of learning, not to mean they are "disabled" but it should be understood our children our not cattle.
They cannot be all set to graze on the same grass.
Some people learn by sight more then sound. Others by touch more then sight.
Schools take the median norm % and teach that way.
Which leaves (on thier own scaled average) the ones below the 30% and those above 60% left out, unless they have a fantastic teacher.
This child was curious, probably a future builder of something!! He was investigating! (Heck, maybe a detective!)
Yet, schools seem to be working on squellshing those independant notions lately.
BTW we do not need any NEW laws... because the law is pretty clear and simple and applies to all..(parents need to know this and use it)
Every child in the USA is entitled to a free appropriate education.
Appropriate being what that specific child needs.....NOT what 635 others at the school get!!
Ok soap box being put away now
03-10-2007, 05:52 AM #11
I don't know if my kids' school has those alarms or not since I've never thought to look, but now I'm going to have to warn them to never even walk close to them because they can actually go to jail and get a record.
03-10-2007, 03:08 PM #12Registered User
- Join Date
- Aug 2003
- clifton park,ny
How ridiculous. With all the "real" crimes that are commited in this world with people barely getting punished I find this crazy.
A friend of my son's recently get suspended for a whole semester for putting his tobacco chew on a radiator. I guess it stunk the whole school up and they thought it was a terrorist attack. Stupid yes,criminal,no. I think his punishment was appropriate,but this little boys is just plain insane.
03-10-2007, 04:01 PM #13Former Member
Originally Posted by hockeymom
- Join Date
- Feb 2005
03-10-2007, 11:17 PM #14Originally Posted by MabelI do not intend to tiptoe through life only to arrive safely at death!
03-12-2007, 06:27 PM #15
I could understand slapping the cuffs on the kid and taking him to the station for his parents to pick up. I could even understand a detention. It is a serious matter....but it hardly deserves a weekend in kid jail!
( I could understand it if this wasn't his first time doing this or he was a CONSTANT problem.)