On March 7, 2014 Selina Garcia, a senior at Southeast Raleigh high school was suspended from school because of allegations that she committed level II infractions. Her administrator suspended her for 5 days, noting mitigating factors including prolonged and explicit harassment by the other student involved in the incident. However, the School Resource Officer, which are employed by Raleigh Police Department, decided that this wasn’t enough – said that she needed to “learn a lesson,” and so he arrested her and took her to jail. Despite the fact that she posed NO safety threat to the school environment, the officer made the conscious choice to criminalize her. He didn’t care that she wanted to focus on graduating this Spring, and needed to be in school to accomplish that goal – all that mattered was asserting his dominance and “teaching her a lesson”
When the SRO arrested her, he likely thought that she would go to jail for a couple hours and then be picked up by her family. But, 19 days later and counting, there’s no end in sight for her:
For 19 days, she has been dehumanized, stripped of all sense of pride or dignity
For 19 days, no one has called her by her name – they simply call her #34
For 19 days, she has lived among adult women who are drugged into oblivion so that they can be “controlled,” striving to keep herself together so that she doesn’t have to be similarly medicated
For 19 days, she has been the only high school female in a jail that isn’t equipped for students, sitting in an empty “classroom” on only 2 occasions without computer access for her online gradpoint classes, falling farther and farther behind
When you’re in foster care, no one HAS to come pick you up, even when there’s no bail to pay. When you’re in foster care, an arrest can cause you to get kicked out of the closest thing to a home you have, leaving your future even more uncertain. When you’re in foster care, an arrest can make you lose scholarship grants from DSS that would provide you with your only real option to go to college.
She has faced all of these repercussions based only on allegations of level II misconduct at school, but neither the SRO nor the school officials who have subjected her to these punishments face any repercussions for their actions. Sign to demand action NOW!
As students, parents, educators, social service workers, child welfare advocates, community leaders and people of conscience:
1. We call for the Immediate Release of Selina Garcia!
Selina Garcia is a 17-year old North Carolina high school student and activist who has been held in an adult correctional facility for an alleged altercation on a school bus, a non-felony offense, since March 7, 2014.
2. We demand that the North Carolina Division of Social Services (NCDSS) immediately sign Selina out of adult jail and place her in an appropriate foster care home setting in Raleigh, NC in order to allow Selina, who is currently a senior, to graduate in June 2014 and remain eligible for college scholarships. We demand this happens as expediently as possible, and that if she is put in a temporary placement, that she be in a home where she is loved and welcomed, and not a jail. We demand that housing offered by community members in Raleigh be considered as temporary placements, even if the family offering that housing is not yet foster care certified. Jails are not legitimate homes for youth!
3. We call for a full independent investigation of the collusion between Mr. David Schwenker, Southeast Raleigh High Principal, and the Raleigh Police Department that allowed for the overturning of a low level suspension for Level 2 offense on a school bus. We demand an answer of why a minor school-related dispute between two students resulted in Selina being arrested, charged with three misdemeanor offenses and imprisoned in an adult correctional facility. We are especially concerned that Mr. David Schwenker or any educator would allow young people in their academic care to be subjected to such extreme abuse and trauma.
4. We call for a full independent investigation of the foster care workers and supervisors employed by North Carolina Division of Social Services (NCDSS), who allowed Selina Garcia and countless other young people to be held in adult correctional facilities in lieu of foster care home placement.
5. We demand the drafting of a new Memorandum Of Understanding between the North Carolina Public School System and the Raleigh Police Department that ensures community and school control over police activities. Wake County advocates have continued to raise concerns that the Raleigh Police Department can trump the power of educators and administrators on school property. We reference a similar incident last year that made national news at Enloe High School when Raleigh Police brutalized and arrested seven African American students and a parent who attempted to intervene in the aftermath of a senior prank water balloon fight. Then, as now, the school administrators say it’s out of their power.
6. We support the North Carolina RAISE THE AGE Campaign. Young people in NC are legally tried as adults and we must get children out of the adult correctional system. We are outraged that because Selina is 17 years old and legally a minor, she is unable to sign herself out of jail. North Carolina is the only state in the nation that tries 16 and 17-year-olds as adults for misdemeanors and incarcerates them in adult facilities. Currently, Selina is old enough to be tried as an adult and incarcerated with adults, but not old enough to sign herself out, which she could do today if she were 18 years old. We demand an end to this hypocrisy.
7. We demand that Wake County Public School System put a moratorium —or temporary pause— on suspensions and instead implement the NC Coalition for Education Justice’s Restorative Justice proposal. The Wake County School Board is well aware of Wake County’s School-to-Prison Pipeline. Concerned students, parents, community leaders and advocates have filed a federal complaint with the Department of Justice about unjust school discipline policies in Wake County. However, the school board has failed to adequately address these issues.
8. We demand that Selina’s past not be put on trial and that the media not demonize her character. Selina Garcia is a bold activist with the student group NC HEAT. She is a kind and compassionate young person. There is a long history of deflecting systemic injustices onto individuals and misrepresenting their personal histories, and we reject the twisting of Selina’s story and the negative ramifications that could have on her trial.
9. We recognize and stand in solidarity with the ongoing campaigns against the school to prison pipeline! NC HEAT, Dignity in Schools Campaign, Education Justice Alliance and countless groups across North Carolina and the U.S. have been organizing to replace punitive discipline practices with more humane restorative justice practices. We firmly believe that Students, especially of color belong in School, NOT Jail!