An autistic sixth grader in Lynchburg, Virginia was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, PRI's Susan Ferriss reports.
Eleven-year-old Kayleb Moon-Robinson, who has been diagnosed as autistic, was initially charged after he kicked a trashcan in frustration last year at Linkhorne Middle School. The school installed new rules concerning his behavior, including one that required him to wait to exit a classroom until all the other students had vacated it.
When he violated that rule, the principal sent the same "school resource officer" -- a euphemism for a police officer hired by a school -- who arrested him last November to do so again.
"He grabbed me and tried to take me to the office," Kayleb told PRI. "I started pushing him away. He slammed me down, and then he handcuffed me."
Because of that brief struggle, Kayleb was not only charged with disorderly conduct, but also felony assault on a police officer.
His mother, Stacey Doss -- who is herself the daughter of a police officer -- is in a state of disbelief over the school's treatment of her son.
"I thought in my mind — Kayleb is eleven," she told PRI. "He is autistic. He doesn’t fully understand how to differentiate the roles of certain people."
Doss was even more dismayed when, earlier this month, a juvenile court found Kayleb guilty of all the charges against him.
According to a report from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), Kayleb's case is not unique -- especially not in Virginia, which leads the nation in the percentage of students whose disciplinary problems are referred to law enforcement officials.
The majority of these referrals, according to the CPI's report, are either special-needs or minority students -- two criteria that Kayleb himself fits. Shunting such students onto what the CPI calls the "school-to-prison pipeline" can be deleterious to their development -- especially in cases like Kayleb's.
But the court that found him guilty felt differently. According to his mother, the judge "said that Kayleb had been handled with kid gloves. And that he understood that Kayleb had special needs, but that he needed to ‘man up,’ that he needed to behave better. And that he needed to start controlling himself or that eventually they would start controlling him."
Kayleb's defense attorney insisted that the boy had not been intentionally disruptive, but the prosecution countered that his "mental issues" did not amount to "diminished capacity."
He is now attending an alternative school as he awaits a June hearing to learn his fate.
Listen to the entire report via PRI below.