Girl, 12, Taken Away in Handcuffs for Doodling on Her Desk; Dept. of Ed. Admits To Excessive Punishment

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Alexa Gonzalez was handcuffed and detained for doodling on her desk with erasable marker. Credit: Bryan Pace, New York Daily News

A 12-year-old girl in New York City was not only suspended Monday, but taken in handcuffs to the police precinct across the street, for doodling on her desk with an erasable marker.

Now, the New York City Department of Education has figured out that the punishment didn't fit the crime.

"The principal made a mistake and the suspension has been lifted," Margie Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Education, tells ParentDish in an official statement on Friday

Feinberg adds the girl is back in her classroom and Principal Marilyn Grant is working to make amends with Gonzalez's family.

Gonzalez was doodling her name on her desk at JHS 190 with an erasable marker when adults at the school caught her, slapped handcuffs on her and marched her to the police precinct directly across the street.

Matthew Mittenthal, another spokesman for the Department of Education, confirmed the strange tale was true.

The New York Daily News reported that police didn't know quite how to respond to the request to take the rogue scribbler into custody.

"Even when we're asked to make an arrest, common sense should prevail, and discretion used in deciding whether an arrest or handcuffs are really necessary," police spokesman Paul Browne tells the Daily News.

The trip to the police precinct and suspension were all for doodling "I love my friends Abby and Faith" and "Lex was here. 2/1/10" with a smiley face on her desk.

Gonzalez tells the Daily News she spent several hours at the precinct.

"I started crying, like, a lot," she tells the paper. "I made two little doodles. It could be easily erased. To put handcuffs on me is unnecessary."

Her mother, Moraima Camacho, tells the Daily News her daughter's near-perfect attendance record has been marred by the suspension.

"She's been throwing up," Camacho tells the paper. "The whole situation has been a nightmare."

Gonzalez says she never thought doodling with a lime green marker would get her in so much trouble.

"I just thought I'd get a detention," she adds. "I thought maybe I would have to clean [the desk]."

Even though education officials are investigating, Department of Education spokesman David Cantor tells the Daily News the school's actions were clearly questionable.

"Based on what we've seen so far, this shouldn't have happened," he says.

Other New York students also have been handcuffed for minor infractions, according to the Daily News.

Three years ago, a 13-year-old was arrested for writing "okay" on her desk at Intermediate School 201 in Brooklyn. Two years ago, the Daily News reports, a 5-year-old in Queens was cuffed and sent to a psychiatric ward after throwing a fit in his kindergarten class. Then, last year, a 12-year-old girl was arrested for doodling on her desk at the Hunts Point School in the Bronx.

A class action lawsuit was filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union just weeks ago against New York City for using "excessive force" in middle and high schools.

"This should be a wake-up call to the mayor, the city council and the Department of Education," Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, says on the organization's Web site.

"There is a crisis in our schools because they put the police in charge of routine discipline that ought to be handled by educators," she adds. "We all want safe schools, but that means that our children must be kept safe by those assigned to protect them."

Even though she is no longer suspended, Gonzalez still went to family court Tuesday where she was assigned eight hours of community service and a book report. She also has to write an essay about she she learned through all this.

"I definitely learned not to ever draw on a desk," she tells the Daily News.


Related: Grounded Teen Petitions Against Her Punishment on Facebook

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.