A new Missouri state law could charge school-aged children with a felony for getting into a fight.
According to Missouri state statute 565.054, 565.054, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017, “A person commits the offense of assault in the third degree if he or she knowingly causes physical injury to another person.”
The assault can be counted as a Class E felony and is applicable to children, according to the Hazelwood School District in Missouri.
“For example, if two students are fighting and one child is injured, the student who caused the injury may be charged with a felony,” explained the Hazelwood School District's website. “Student(s) who are caught fighting in school, bus or on school grounds may now be charged with a felony (no matter the age or grade level), if this assault is witnessed by one of the School Resource Officers/police officers (SRO) or if the SRO/local law enforcement officials have to intervene.”
“Are we really trying to throw these kids’ futures away by giving them a felony charge for something they do in their adolescence, giving them an adult charge when we can do something else to get in front of the situation?” Erica Ussery, a graduate of Hazelwood Central High School and now a parent, told KTVI.
She added: “Instead of being reactive and trying to give these kids a felony charge for fighting in school, let’s be proactive and try to mentor and get more people involved to help with the real issues as to why they’re fighting in the first place, I think that’s more effective.”
But Sgt. Jon Broom of Sikeston, Missouri, said a potential felony record for the rest of a person's life, which could affect financial aid for college and employment eligibility, might be just the thing to prevent children from getting into a fight.
“A felony down the road is something that will definitely hamper you down the road for sure," Broom told KFVS. “I would definitely speak with them and talk with them and let them know just a fist fight anymore could definitely mean a felony. Something that could follow you on down the road and could make life difficult for you.”