If your child commits a crime at a Duval County school, will he or she be arrested? If your daughter is caught with marijuana in a St. Johns County school, will she be arrested for Florida possession of cannabis? If your son is involved in a fight at school in Clay County, will he be arrested for Florida simple battery? Possibly. When a crime occurs at a school, the children involved will face punishment from the school and may end up in the Jacksonville juvenile delinquent court system. As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I have represented children for a variety of crimes. Some were arrested for felony charges. Others were arrested for misdemeanors. Some of the children made a mistake and deserved a second chance. Others were falsely accused and not guilty of the crime charged.
In my experience as a Jacksonville juvenile attorney, I have noticed an issue with fights between students. This issue revolves around bullying. We all know that bullying is a problem in schools. This is such a problem that we have national anti-bullying campaigns. We have StopBullying.gov. “StopBullying.gov provides information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how you can prevent and respond to bullying.” We have Pacer.org. “PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, actively leads social change, so that bullying is no longer considered an accepted childhood rite of passage. PACER provides innovative resources for students, parents, educators, and others, and recognizes bullying as a serious community issue that impacts education, physical and emotional health, and the safety and well-being of students.”
Even with the national resources that we have, bullying still occurs in Jacksonville-area schools. I read an article today titled “School bus stop brawl is last straw” and it stated:
“A local father claims his daughter has been bullied for the past two years but Monday afternoon a fight broke out at a school bus stop and this time, other parents joined in. The Duval County School District’s code of conduct strictly prohibits bullying on school grounds and buses, but a father who was involved in Monday’s incident at the Windy Hill Elementary School bus stop said until something is done about bullying, he’s taking his daughter out of public school…. He said he wanted to protect his daughter and their home after they were involved in a neighborhood fight that escalated. ‘Kids from school that don’t even ride that bus are getting off the bus stop and punching kids and adults,’ Danny said. ‘My whole family has been threatened. My property has been threatened.’”
In the Duval County case above, the father reported the incident to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Duval County State Attorney’s Office. According to the story, it appeared that the person being attacked was the victim of bullying. If the other child is charged, he or she will be facing battery charges. Let’s change the facts for a moment. What if, instead, the child that was being bullied was going to be arrested on Jacksonville juvenile criminal charges? Imagine that a child is being bullied at school. The bullying escalates to physical violence when the child is attacked in the school halls. The child fights back to protect himself. Both children are suspended and charged with affray in Jacksonville for engaging in a fight. This does not seem fair when the child was merely acting in self-defense. Florida’s self-defense laws allow us to defend ourselves. When it comes to a fight, most of the evidence is based on eyewitness testimony. What if the eyewitnesses were all friends with the bully and also picking on the victim? Now, the victim is a criminal defendant. This can happen. If the bullying had been stopped early on, it would have never led to physical violence and no one would have been arrested. Hopefully, anti-bullying programs in public schools will help address this issue.