Salecia Johnson’s family lashed out over her treatment and said she was badly shaken, while the school system and the police defended their handling of the incident.
Civil rights advocates and criminal justice experts say frustrated teachers and principals across the country are calling in the police to deal with even relatively minor disruptions.
Some juvenile authorities say they believe it is happening more often, driven in part by an increased police presence at schools over the past two decades because of tragedies like the Columbine school massacre. But numbers are hard to come by.
“Kids are being arrested for being kids,” said Shannon Kennedy, a civil rights attorney who is suing the Albuquerque, New Mexico, school district, where hundreds of kids have been arrested in the past few years for minor offenses. Those include having cellphones in class, burping, refusing to switch seats and destroying a history book.
Salecia was accused of tearing items off the walls and throwing books and toys in an outburst Friday at her school in Georgia. Police said she also threw a small shelf that struck the principal in the leg, jumped on a paper shredder and tried to break a glass frame.