A twelve-year-old girl with a “kill list” has been expelled from school. POLICE WERE INVOLVED!!!
Twelve. She’s a fucking kid.
What’s next? A toddler being arrested for throwing a block at his brother’s head?
If we treat people like thieves and idiots, we get thieves and idiots. (Use any other nouns you wish.)
When we hold children to unreasonably high standards with total disregard for their emotional and cognitive abilities, we do damage.
Yes, a twelve-year-old is capable of knowing that that type of list is not appropriate. But emotions drive children’s actions. Saying that you want to kill someone is a pretty common childhood expression at one point or another. Not that it should be accepted, but nurturing, not punishment, is the appropriate course of action.
A twelve year old in that situation should be treated like a child. The first step is to connect with the child, and then try to understand what’s going on. (Was she feeling mad or sad or __________? What was the impetus for the list? Does she want to hurt those other children? Does she want their attention? A million questions could happen here.) A discussion about appropriate conduct (writing that in your journal might be okay, taking a list to school is not. Teach her ways to manage and dis-empower her anger/feelings.). Let her know that she’s supported rather than alienating her and treating her like a CRIMINAL. Once the situation is understood, she should be held accountable: encouraged to address the classmate who turned her in, to apologize for scaring her, and to acknowledge to the administration that her action was wrong, that she won’t do such a thing again. Kids deserve the space to fall, to learn, to grow.
Criminalizing children never helps, it only stunts, distorts, damages.
I wish sensibility could trump fear, but with our inclination to defer our authority to anyone else, how could it?