Most of us have experience with a kid who's given themselves a nice five-finger discount. Maybe your toddler once grabbed a shiny marble in a Target and tucked it into her palm until you got home. Maybe you were that child once upon a time. The one who ate a grape in the produce aisle without paying for it or who grabbed a silk flower from art class without permission because it was calling to you. Those kids get found out, and there's usually a talking-to in order. Maybe you march them back to the store or to school and make them confess or pay for their stolen gummy bears or whatever.
Or maybe you arrest them for larceny and refuse to back down, even when you come to understand that the milk they stole wasn't really stolen at all. I know, it sounds like overkill so severe that only an absolute nutbag would do that to a kid, but that's exactly what happened to Ryan Turk, a Virginia middle schooler.
The setting is, of course, the lunchroom. The heist involved a 65-cent carton of milk. Ryan, you see, receives free lunch and forgot his little box of milk, which we have to assume at this point wasn't milk at all but liquid gold with chunks of diamond mixed in.
A police officer saw him when he returned to take the milk and assumed he was stealing it, confronted Ryan and then escalated the situation when Ryan backed away from him. Ryan was then taken to the principal's office, where he was searched for drugs, because taking milk you're already entitled to is a gateway to skin-popping heroin, we guess. They didn't find any, but Ryan was arrested and charged with larceny — larceny — and must now appear in juvenile court.
Ryan's mother, Shamise, is obviously super pissed that her son now has criminal charges leveled against him, but what's most galling is how all the adults (at least we have to assume they're adults, behavior notwithstanding) handled this. Ryan has been accused of concealing the milk, of being fidgety, doing shady things like pulling on the strings of his pants and not talking to the task force that had been assembled to bring her milk-stealing son to justice.
Let's revisit this, shall we? So a middle schooler attempts to conceal the milk that he gets for free on his school's reduced lunch plan? Wow, that does sound suspicious. I mean, preadolescents are 100 percent understanding all the time about things like that, and we live in a society where people who need additional help with things like money for food are completely free from stigma.
When confronted, Ryan was combative. Again, that really does seem strange for a middle school boy. They're usually so calm and feel no desire whatsoever to push back against authority figures, particularly when they're being wrongly accused of something.
As far as the fidgeting and pants string-pulling go, I mean, when's the last time you've ever heard of a kid doing that?
What this comes down to, it seems, is another kid being arrested and having his life potentially upended for doing kid things. So far this school year we've seen kids arrested for breaking dress code, kids as young as 6 arrested for not breaking up fights they had nothing to do with and now, apparently, a kid arrested for stealing milk that, by definition, was actually impossible for him to steal.
Even if Ryan had pocketed a carton of moo juice, the appropriate reaction seems like calling his mom, a fine of 65 cents and maybe a detention. When they found out he wasn't doing what they were accusing him of doing, the appropriate reaction seems like apologizing for jumping to conclusions and talking to the police officer involved about learning how to use his words.
Neither of these outcomes necessitates potentially ruining this young man's life.
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