1,000 signatures reached
To: Henrico County Public Schools, Henrico County Police Department
Henrico County, VA: Stop criminalizing students of color!
Students shouldn't end up in the criminal justice system over petty misbehavior. Henrico County, please drop the felony charges against students who pulled a harmless prank at Varina High School.
Why is this important?
Senior pranks are a common rite of passage in schools across America. Typically, students who engage in them are asked to make amends by cleaning up their messes, or they may lose the privilege of enjoying senior perks like going on a fun trip.
Yet last week, almost a dozen Black students in Henrico County, Virginia were charged with felonies, just for writing words in chocolate syrup and smearing other foods on their high school at the end of May .
Despite the fact that the mess was cleaned up “fairly quickly” the morning after it happened, school officials and the local police decided to charge the students with felony vandalism and misdemeanor trespassing, potentially saddling them with criminal records that could haunt them for the rest of their lives. Students with felony records may have trouble getting financial aid for college, or finding gainful employment. That's a pretty high price to pay for chocolate syrup.
Notably, Henrico County Public Schools has previously been highlighted for racial disparities in their discipline practices . The district recently earned the shameful distinction of having Virginia’s highest disparity in suspension rates between White and Black students. Though only 37 percent of HCPS students are Black, Black students account for 75 percent of suspensions.
Over the past few years, youth and communities of color have worked hard to raise awareness of the many ways in which young Black and Brown students are pushed out of school and into the criminal justice system over minor infractions that White students frequently get away with. Though this particular incident happened in one county in Virginia, this is part of an egregious nationwide problem, that we all have an urgent responsibility to solve.
Enough is enough. Let's make sure that public officials in Henrico County and nationwide know that we will no longer tolerate racial bias in student discipline. Tell Henrico County to drop the felony charges against these students, and to stop criminalizing students of color.
1. "Henrico students charged with felonies after senior prank"
2. "Henrico schools questioned about discipline, race"