A School Accused A Student Of Milk Theft. He Was Innocent But Is Still Going To Court.

In this photo taken Tuesday, May 3, 2011, Chocolate milk cartons are seen at the Belmont Senior High cafeteria in Los Angeles. CREDIT: DAMIAN DOVARGANES, AP
In this photo taken Tuesday, May 3, 2011, Chocolate milk cartons are seen at the Belmont Senior High cafeteria in Los Angeles. CREDIT: DAMIAN DOVARGANES, AP

A middle school student in Virginia was handcuffed and charged with stealing a 65-cent carton of milk from his school cafeteria, local television station WTVR reported — even though the student, who’s on the school’s free lunch program, wasn’t responsible for paying for it anyway.

The student’s mother told WVTR she’s very frustrated her son was handcuffed. “They are charging him with larceny,” she said. “I don’t have no understanding as to why he is being charged with larceny when he was entitled to that milk from the beginning.”

The student, named Ryan, was also suspended for the incident. Both law enforcement and school officials argue that the issue is about Ryan’s behavior during the accusation that he stole milk.

He was entitled to that milk from the beginning.

A school spokesperson told the station that he’s being suspended for “theft, being disrespectful and using his cell phone in school.” His pulling away from the officer and appearing fidgety was also apparently a factor in the school’s judgment that his behavior was disrespectful. Police, meanwhile, say the larceny charge has to do with Ryan “concealing” the milk from others.

Ryan’s mother denies he tried to hide the milk. Now, he has to be appear in juvenile court.

These kinds of stories aren’t incredibly rare. The increased police presence in schools since the infamous Columbine shooting, coupled with some say is a lack of training for a new environment where conflicts have to be resolved differently, creates an environment where students often receive harsh discipline for minor indiscretions — or in this case, simple misunderstandings.


It has been well-documented that students of color, disabled students, and LGBT students receive a disproportionate amount of discipline, such as school suspensions, for their infractions. A report from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles that analyzed U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights data found that black students were four times as likely to be suspended than white students. Students with disabilities were two to three times as likely to be suspended than non-disabled students. Black students were suspended at higher rates at highly segregated schools as well, the report found.

This Guide Challenges Colleges’ Tendency To Ask Students About Criminal RecordEducation CREDIT: Casey Quinlan On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education released a guide for colleges that will…thinkprogress.orgRacial bias factors into teachers’ decisions about school discipline, research shows. According to Stanford University research released last year, teachers interpret student misbehavior differently depending on their race. Although the teachers in the study may not have let racial stereotypes guide their reaction to a student’s first infraction, after the second infraction, teachers judged black students more severely than white students.

These incidents of school discipline affect students’ path to higher education whether or not they, like Ryan, end up in juvenile court.

College applications tend to ask questions about students’ school discipline records or involvement in the criminal justice system, and surveys show that the answers do influence their decision-making process. The U.S. Department of Education is urging colleges and the nonprofits making the applications that colleges typically use, such as the Common Application, to change the way they ask these questions or to avoid doing so at all. The Common Application has since tweaked its question on criminal records, but hasn’t eliminated it entirely yet.