…And so it continues.
In Salem, a 20-year-old student at Salem community charter school was arrested Monday. That charge? Assault by means of a dangerous weapon. The weapon? Knives.
According to law enforcement Bjorn A. Nichols (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) of Salem, was taken into custody and charged with assault by a dangerous weapon, carrying a weapon on school premises, resisting arrest, violation of the city’s knife ordinance, disorderly conduct and causing a disturbance. According to Lieutenant. Mary Butler, police were called at approximately 3:30 PM by someone at the school who said they felt threatened by the presence of the Defendant and his knives.
Naturally, the police responded.
The lieutenant explained that there were no injuries, nor anyone actually physically attacked. However, the defendant had a 2 inch knife and a 3 inch knife, the latter of which violated the city ordinance on blade length.
According to the police, the non-violent aspect of the event changed when police entered the scene. Then, it is reported, the Defendant became aggressive and struggled with the police officers when they tried to arrest him.
Attorney Sam’s Take On The Flip Side Of School Security
On my last blog, we discussed the positive aspects of police presence at schools. Connected to that, is, of course, the efforts of the schools to appear to be “zero tolerance” when it comes to criminal activity.
I have represented clients in the number of matters which result in not only court issues, but also disciplinary hearings, suspensions and expulsions. Unfortunately, some of the same problems which occur on the street also occur in the schools.
For example, we have discussed in the past the fact that who receives the title “victim” and who dons the mantle of “defendant” is often a matter of who contacts the police first. This also seems to be a police method of solving crimes at the schools. The administrations then tend to follow the lead of the professional crime busters… The police.
“But Sam, I remember going to school. Usually, a “rat” is shunned at school. Isn’t it unlikely that people would run to the school police?”
It sure is. However, when one party does go to the police, that party is considered a reliable victim because they reached out to the police. Period. There are several problems with this. Not only the one that you mentioned,
Let’s say that Tommy Tattle goes to the police and says that Alan Accused threatened to strangle him to death. Let’s further assume that not only did Alan not threaten Tommy, but there was no interaction between the two of them at all. Regardless of Allen’s views on going to the police against a fellow student, he does not even know that anything is being alleged. Naturally, he could not go to the police about something that he knows nothing about.
Seldom, however, is that reality considered by law enforcement. When Alan simply says that Tommy is lying and is unable to prove a negative, Allen is in a great deal of trouble. I find that once the police jump to the conclusion as to who is at fault, the school administration follows along and defenses the officers viewpoints.
There are liability issues and civil lawsuits to consider, after all…
Depending upon how seriously they takes the title “zero tolerance” regarding violence, I have seen officers and school officials simply throw out the blanket of Blame to everyone involved regardless of the circumstances.
“Well, doesn’t that make sense? After all, it takes at least two people to be in a fight.”
I suppose. That is if we except the assumption that if a student is attacked, the student should simply lay there and continue to be assaulted and not strike back at all if he hopes to escape any prosecution. Of course, even with such a lunatic proposition, there are no guarantees. You would be shocked at some of the outrageous situations that I have walked clients through in which school officials and police officers turn themselves into logistical pretzels in order to support an officers original conclusion.
What do I mean by outrageous?
How about a case in which the fight is actually videotaped and it is clear that one kid not only strikes first but has the other kid under total control, hand around throat in a headlock, while the other kid is simply on the ground struggling to get free? In such a case, both kids were disciplined and were brought into the halls of justice.
This is but one example, and someday, I might give you specifics of some such scholastic nightmares should I receive permission from those clients.
Let me put it this way, though. We are talking about prestigious Massachusetts universities.
So what does one do when a parent is notified that their child has been involved in an altercation and that there may be ramifications?
Unfortunately, it’s the same thing that we have discussed about what happens in the “real world”. Do not expect that it is an even playing field or that the school is going to do it’s best to filter out the truth and protect the aggrieved. In more cases than not, the school will be busy protecting its own police and it’s conclusions… Regardless of what the basis of those conclusions are.
The smartest thing you can do, although school administrators and school police will often tell you it is not necessary, is to grab hold of a defense attorney who is experienced in such matters. There is a limit to what the attorney can do during school proceedings. However, there are things that the attorney can do to help. Further, if there is any possibility of criminal charges, you are playing with fire if you face that alone.
Do not expect that you are, as parent, going to be able to talk to the prosecutor or judge and simply tell them the truth as you see it and have them dismiss charges.
As I have mentioned in the past, I am a parent as well and I have had to deal with the feelings of fear and helplessness when one of my kids has gotten him or herself into trouble. I can tell you that, at least in the criminal justice system, being the parent does not give you the power to always make everything “alright” by leaping into the fray. Sometimes the best you can do is to make the right decisions, pay close attention and count on someone you trust to do the actual protecting of your child before the court.
That person is an experienced criminal defense attorney.
NOTE TO READERS: I regret that this week and last week were embarrassingly bereft of blogs. However, please be assured that I am trying to post between three and five blogs a week…work necessary for my actual clients, of course, has to take priority. Believe me, though, I am very grateful for my readers and I will continue to do my best in regular postings.
As a sign of “good faith”, I will be posting one more blog this week later today. “See” you then.
To read the original story upon which this blog is based please go to http://m.salemnews.com/TSN/db_325481/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=GqNl63Io