A new statute in the state of Missouri has upgraded the punishment for fighting in elementary school to a Class E felony, meaning students could face jail time for getting into a fight, regardless of their age or grade level.
The new legislation goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, WBTV reported. The statute reportedly ups the punishment for fighting in school from a misdemeanor to a Class E felony.
At the moment, if a student were to get into a fight and hurt another person, that student would be charged with a misdemeanor and then be released to their parents.
With the new legislation, if a student gets into a fight, they will be sent to a juvenile detention center and charged with a Class E felony.
Jon Broom, DPS Sergeant of Sikeston, said he hopes the new legislation will force students to think twice before engaging in 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.”
The legislation comes at a time where several schools are turning to alternative methods such as counseling to reduce the need for punitive discipline.
“We try to treat our students as children," Sharifah Williams, spokeswoman for Normandy schools, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We look at law enforcement as something that deals mostly with adults. We don’t want to add any more people to the pipeline."