Students in Missouri could face criminal charges for bullying thanks to a new law that makes the infliction of “emotional distress” a felony.
According to The Washington Post, the law is part of the state’s broader overhaul of its criminal code, but could pull police and courts into incidents that are usually considered school disciplinary issues.
As a result, more students could possibly face legal repercussions and even jail time if found guilty of school misconduct.
“This crime was not written with children in mind,” said Susan Goldammer, a lawyer with the Missouri School Boards Association. “The mandatory reporting laws have forced school districts to apply this to children, which is going to be really hard.”
For years, public schools around the nation have worked to reduce police involvement in school and student matters, with many educators believing that children who face legal repercussions for incidents in the classroom could be funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline.
Missouri requires schools to report certain crimes to police, possibly triggering a response from the juvenile justice system.