Photo: Texas Students Being Arrested, Ticketed for Playing with Paper Planes and Spraying Perfume
Like many young students, Sarah Bustamantes was teased. Her classmates often told her she smelled and made fun of her for being “weird.” So on one of these occasions, 12-year-old Bustamantes pulled out a bottle of perfume and sprayed herself twice.
What followed has many criticizing not only the school, but the Texas law makers that would allow such measures.
Bustamantes told The Guardian, ‘They were saying a lot of rude things to me. Just picking on me. So I sprayed myself with perfume. Then they said, ‘Put that away, that’s the most terrible smell I’ve ever smelled.’ Then the teacher called the police.’
The officer who routinely patrols the halls was called in, and Bustamantes was charged with a criminal misdemeanor and ordered to appear in court.
Bustamantes’ story is not the only one of its kind. Students all around Texas have been arrested and/or ticketed for arriving to school a few minutes late, wearing inappropriate clothing, swearing, leaving crumbs on the table after lunch, and even playing with paper planes. In other words, relatively normal childhood behavior can leave children with criminal records.
In 2010, Texas police gave nearly 300,000 “Class C misdemeanor” tickets to children as young as six. In the last six years, around 1,000 of these types of tickets were given to primary or pre-high school age children.
Once ticketed, the children are given fines, community service, and at times even jail sentences.
In 2011, the state legislature changed the law so that 10- and 11-year-old students could not be issued tickets for classroom behavior. In Texas, the age of criminal responsibility is 10.
However, a bill aiming to abolish the practice entirely was shot down, even despite support from federal government officials.