If this boilerplate response sounds all too familiar, it’s because police and school administrators use it all the time after arresting students for completely moronic reasons. A 12-year-old girl was taken into custody in Texas for spraying herself with perfume. Another student in Texas was arrested for throwing paper airplanes in class. In New Mexico, a 13-year-old boy was arrested for burping in class; another student was ordered to strip down to his underwear with five teachers watching because he had $200 on his person. A 12-year-old girl in New York was arrested for doodling on her desk, while an eight-year-old boy in Massachusetts was administered a psychological evaluation because he drew a picture of Jesus in class. And let’s not forget the Oklahoma math teacher who made a citizen’s arrest on a student for possessing a permanent marker, which apparently came in violation of “an obscure city ordinance.”
Broken windows has come to the American schoolyard.
While Ahmed’s incident comes with a sheen of Islamophobia (to wit: this list of students who brought homemade clocks to school and weren’t arrested), it also speaks to a broader question: When did we start criminalizing innocent childhood antics?