How the Juvenile Justice System is Broken: The Bullies in Blue Need the Boot

In the United States, the Juvenile Justice system is the collection of multiple state and local court-based systems that handle minors who come in contact with law enforcement, are accused of breaking the law, or are convicted of criminal offences.

According to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, in the state of Texas, out of the thousand school districts over three hundred of them have their own internal police department. According to Michael Antu, the Deputy Chief of the Commission, of the hundred and ninety-two law enforcement agencies that have been created in Texas since 2017, ninety-nine of them are school police departments. The uniformed police officers who are placed at schools across the country are known as “School Resource Officers” or SROs. Their job is to patrol the school and make sure that it is a safe environment for the students to learn and be, but how safe is it actually?

Many of the schools that have SROs look more like detention centers rather than schools. They are decorated with full-body metal detectors, detection wands, security cameras, and officers as the hall and premise monitors. How are students supposed to feel safe when right outside of their classroom door there is someone who is fully armed and legally allowed to use physical force on them? Students of colour, visible minorities, and physical and mental disabilities are affected the most by the people who are actually meant to keep them safe. They are penalized for every little thing; they are more likely than their white peers to be taken aside or out of class for misbehaving; they are more likely to be physically attacked by an officer; they are more likely to be assumed guilty. The list can go on and on, but the reality is that they have not done anything wrong except being a child. Yet, they are still more likely to go to into the system as a juvenile and again as an adult.

The main reason for SROs is to make sure that there is no illegal activity going on and to deal with it in an orderly fashion (if there is any). However, the ACLU office in Pennsylvania researched the impact of school policing and found that “There is no clear empirical basis for the claim that SROs reduce student crime rates” (Kupchik, 1). If there has not been a reduction in the student crime rates, can we really claim that SROs are actually useful? Or that they are properly doing their jobs? In fact, in an article published by Brookings, they mention that SROs “have been linked with increased arrests for noncriminal, youthful behaviour, [and] fueling the school-to-prison pipeline [program]” (King and Schindler).

The officers are not meant to be educators or reinforcers of the school rules such as dress code, skipping class, or having devices out, yet they still act like they have that authority. SROs flag students for every little thing, creating a file and putting them into the criminal justice system for horseplay or situations that could and should be handled by school educators and administrators. The police officers in schools are doing jobs that they are not trained or meant to do, it creates a concentrated policing site which often leads to the formation of school-to-prison pipeline programs. It should make you sick that school and prison are even in the same sentence, much more the fact that it is hyphenated. There are too many students affected by these programs. These school-to-prison programs are a gateway for these children right into the criminal justice system, it fuels mass incarceration. There are countless. Countless, stories that just prove that officers should not be in schools. The ACLU has an entire page and multiple testimonies from students who have been affected by the officers in their school. I recommend reading them to educate yourself, the link is posted below. Just note that their stories are disheartening.

  1. “Bullies in Blue: The Problem with School Policing.” American Civil Liberties Union, DuckDuckGo, https://www.aclu.org/issues/juvenile-justice/school-prison-pipeline/bullies-blue-problem-school-policing-infographic.
  2. Henning, Kristin. “Cops at the Schoolyard Gate.” Vox, Vox Media, 28 July 2021, https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/22580659/police-in-school-resource-officers-sro.
  3. King, Ryan, and Marc Schindler. “A Better Path Forward for Criminal Justice: Reconsidering Police in Schools.” Brookings, The Brookings Institution, Apr. 2022, https://www.brookings.edu/research/a-better-path-forward-for-criminal-justice-reconsidering-police-in-schools/.
  4. Kupchik, Aaron. “Research on the Impact of School Policing – FISA Foundation.” FISA Foundation, ACLU Pennsylvania, Aug. 2020, https://fisafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Research-on-School-Policing-by-Aaron-Kupchik-July-2020.pdf.
  5. Méndez, María. “Almost 100 Texas School Districts Have Added Their Own Police Departments Since 2017, But Not Everyone Feels Safer.” The Texas Tribune, The Texas Tribune, 15 June 2022, https://www.texastribune.org/2022/06/15/uvalde-school-officers-texas-shootings/#:~:text=Today%2C%20there%20are%20309%20school,deputy%20chief%20of%20the%20commission.
  6. “What Is Juvenile Justice?” The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, 13 Dec. 2020, https://www.aecf.org/blog/what-is-juvenile-justice.

Children’s Vulnerability During Police Interrogations: The Story of Michael Crowe

The story of Michael Crowe, a 14-year-old child, exemplifies why children need protections during police interrogations. Michael’s traumatic involvement with the criminal justice system began on the night of January 20, 1998 when someone snuck into Stephanie Crowe’s bedroom and stabbed her to death.[1] Police questioned the entire Crowe family the following day, including Michael, Stephanie’s brother.[2] The police read Michael his Miranda rights before questioning him about the murder.[3] However, Michael waived his Miranda rights and spoke with the detectives without an attorney or parent present.[4]

Detectives ignored the fact that on the night of Stephanie’s murder neighbors called the police several times.[5] Neighbors reported that a man was bothering residents and broke into a home in the Crowe’s neighborhood looking for a girl.[6] Detectives had the wrong suspect, but they nonetheless continued to focus their attention on Michael, interrogating him four times.[7]

In the first interview on January 21, 1998, Michael told police that he awoke with a headache around 4:30 a.m. on the morning after Stephanie was murdered, took Tylenol, and went back to his room.[8] Michael retold the same story when police interviewed him for the second time on January 22nd.[9] During the second interrogation, Michael also spoke about how seeing his sister “soaked in blood” the next morning made him cry.[10] He described her as “the best person” and “kind.” Michael expressed anger towards the killer.[11]

            Later that day, police interviewed Michael for a third time for three hours even though he expressed “that he felt sick” at the beginning.[12] Michael once again repeated what he told police during his first and second interviews and said:

I feel like I just … I spent all day away from my family. I couldn’t see them… I feel like I’m being treated like I killed my sister, and I didn’t. It feels horrible, like I’m being blamed for it … Everything I have is gone. Everything. You won’t even let me see my parents. It’s horrible.[13]

Detectives ignored Michael’s pleas and continued to interrogate him by giving a computer stress voice analyzer test.[14] Detectives told Michael that the test proved he was deceiving them and questioned whether there was something he was “blocking out” in his “subconscious mind.”[15] Michael continued to deny that he murdered his sister even as detectives pressured him about whether he needed to confess something.[16] Detectives began to tell Michael that police “found blood in his room, lifted fingerprints off the blood stains, and that the police” knew he killed Stephanie.[17] As Michael repeatedly denied killing his sister, detectives told him that maybe he simply did not remember killing his sister.[18] An emotional and confused Michael asked the detective “if he was sure” that he had killed his sister. To which the detective responded, “‘I’m sure about the evidence. Absolutely.’”[19]

            Finally, detectives interviewed Michael for a fourth time for over six hours on January 23, 1998.[20] Detectives used various interrogation tactics to make Michael confess.[21] Detectives again told Michael that the police had evidence which proved he murdered Stephanie.[22] The detectives also played a “game” with Michael that forced Michael to explain crime scene evidence, but with a rule that Michael could not say “‘I don’t know.’”[23] Detectives continued to tell Michael that he killed Stephanie and he did not remember and “introduced the idea that there were ‘two Michaels,’ a ‘good Michael’ and a ‘bad Michael.’”[24] Finally, detectives told Michael “if he confessed he would get help rather than go to jail.”[25] The detectives continued to pressure Michael into confessing, which resulted in the following exchange:

  1. If I tell you a story, the evidence is going to be a complete lie.

Q. Well, then, tell us the story.

A. Well, I’ll lie. I’ll have to make it up.

Q. Tell us the story, Michael.

A. You want me to tell you a little story?

Q. Tell us the story. What happened that night?

A. Okay. I’m going to warn you right now. It is a complete lie.

Q. Tell us the story.

A. Okay. This is true. I am extremely jealous of my sister.

Q. Okay.

A. She’s always had a lot of friends and good friends and stuff like that. She was friends with people my age, all the popular girls and stuff like that. That’s true. Okay…Okay. Here is the part where I’ll start lying. That night I thought about her. I couldn’t take it anymore. Okay. So I got a knife, went into her room and I stabbed her….

Q. How many times did you stab her?

A. It’s going to be a lie. Three times…

Q. Tell me what the truth is.

A. The only reason I’m trying to lie here is because you presented me with two paths. I’d rather die than go to jail.[26]

The detectives finally had what they saw as a confession and proceeded with criminal charges against Michael.[27] Michael’s story stands as a testament to why the legal community and society as a whole must fight to ensure that the legal injustice, psychological manipulation, and emotional trauma Michael endured during police interrogations does not happen to any other child.


[1] Crowe v. Cty. of San Diego, 608 F.3d 406, 417 (9th Cir. 2010).

[2] Id. at 418.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 417.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 418-419.

[8] Id. at 418.

[9] Id. at 418-419.

[10] Id. at 419.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id. at 420.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Id. at 420-421.

[24] Id. at 421.

[25] Id. at 422.

[26] Id.

[27] Id.

Effects of Appearance Discrimination on Children and How to Remedy It

Appearance discrimination is treating a person unfairly because of how they look. It has been found that the prevalence of discrimination because of physical appearance is significantly higher in girls.[i] Gender discrimination can be the real motive of appearance-based discrimination.[ii]

Appearance discrimination needs more awareness because most people do not consider discrimination based on physical appearance[iii] and yet it has a huge impact on many young people, especially today. In one study, the most prevalent was discrimination because of physical appearance.[iv]

Appearance discrimination often results in bullying for many young people, whether it is done consciously or unconsciously.[v]Unfortunately, in a study, many people that have a visible difference said that their school didn’t do anything to stop them from being bullied.[vi] Another study’s results showed that almost 20% of the adolescents questioned were exposed to discrimination, most frequently to discrimination because of physical appearance.[vii]

If the results of appearance discrimination are not addressed, it can have drastic impacts on how young people view themselves and their futures. Some studies have revealed troubling statistics of the outcomes.

  • 43% of people with a visible difference said it had an impact on their ambition or aspiration in relation to college or university.[viii] More than a fifth (22.3%) of respondents said that their appearance affected their decision on moving into further or higher education.[ix]
  • There are suggestions that people who face discrimination at a young age are more likely to develop behavioral and mental health problems later in life.[x]
  • Appearance discrimination can result in poor body image, which can lead to unhealthy eating habits and decreased self-esteem.[xi]

How to Rectify:

More education and workshops, like Dove’s “Confident Me” lesson workshops[xii], to teach young children about appearance discrimination and empower them to make a difference and feel confident in themselves.

Educating teachers and education professionals what they can do to support children with a visible difference or dealing with these issues and create an inclusive learning environment for all pupils. This could include talking to students about visible differences, addressing appearance-related bullying, and recognizing and challenging unconscious bias.

Parents should educate themselves, as well as their children, on visible differences and helping tackle discrimination by introducing children to the idea of difference at a young age. There are books, TV shows, films, and toys that explore visible difference and disfigurements and challenge myths and stereotypes about those that look different.

Finding ways to increase the representation of those with visible differences in mainstream media. If there can be a way to change the narrative from only being what society deems as “beautiful” is “good,” while the protagonists and villains are visibly different in some way, then there could be some positive changes made when it comes to appearance discrimination.


[i] Laura Bitto Urbanova et al., Adolescents exposed to discrimination: are they more prone to excessive internet use?

[ii] Marcel Schwantes, New Research Reveals Why ‘Appearance Discrimination’ Is Making Workplace Even More Toxic

[iii] Cherea Hammer, A Look into Lookism: An Evaluation of Discrimination Based on Physical Attractiveness

[iv] Bitto Urbanova et al., Adolescents exposed to discrimination: are they more prone to excessive internet use?

[v] https://www.changingfaces.org.uk/for-professionals/teachers/guidance-training-cpd/physical-appearance-discrimination-schools/

[vi] Id.

[vii] Bitto Urbanova et al., Adolescents exposed to discrimination: are they more prone to excessive internet use?

[viii] https://www.changingfaces.org.uk/for-professionals/teachers/guidance-training-cpd/physical-appearance-discrimination-schools/

[ix] Id.

[x] Joe Hernandez, A study links facing discrimination at a young age with future mental health issues

[xi] Amy Morin, How Exposure to the Media Can Harm Your Teen’s Body Image

[xii] https://www.dove.com/us/en/dove-self-esteem-project/school-workshops-on-body-image-confident-me/confident-me-appearance-discrimination.html