20 Years for a School Yard Brawl?

Tension is high in Jena, Louisiana, where six Black high school students are looking at upwards of twenty years in prison for beating up a white student who taunted the boys by hanging nooses from a tree. Here’s how the beef started. The tree, located on the campus of Jena high school, was a popular site where the white students would hang out. When several Black students decided to set-up shop there one day after class, the disgusted white students hung the nooses to let the Black students know that they were not welcome. Every white southerner knows that nothing repels Black people more than a rope hanging from a tree. Several months later, the enraged Black boys located an alleged culprit named Justin Barker, and proceeded to salvage the honor of their ancestors by pummeling him into the ground. Now I do not condone violence under any circumstance short of self-defense, and though it could be argued that the boys were defending their safety as things like nooses and crosses are to be taken very seriously in Louisiana, the real debate here is not about whether the boys were justified. Instead, I’m more interested in the penalty. The Jena high school handbook states that the punishment for a school fight is three days suspension. However these boys were arrested and charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. One of the boys, 17-year-old Mychal Bell, has already been found guilty of the lesser felony account of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. He is awaiting his sentence, which could end up being over 20 years. Two of the boys whose parents could not afford the $90,000 bail have been in jail since December. Whatever happened to ISS, or worse being expelled from the school!? What part of the game is ruining these kids’ lives because of a fight? On the other hand – are these boys, aged 16 to 18, responsible for their actions regardless of the venue? Check out the full story on CNN.com and you decide.

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Published on July 3, 2007 at 7:44 am. 24 Comments.
Filed under news/politics,racism.