ACLU Hails Victory in Defense of 11-Year-Old in Trouble for "Home Alone" Inspired Drawings

Affiliate: ACLU of Arkansas
March 13, 2000 12:00 am

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ACLU of Arkansas
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LITTLE ROCK, AR — An 11-year-old who triggered the overreaction of local school and police officials with his “Home Alone” inspired drawings of booby-traps has finally been freed from court proceedings against his family, the ACLU of Arkansas announced today.

A local court acted more than three months after the seizure of the drawings, which depict fantastic plans including such “supplies” as water balloons, hairspray, and paint.

“This entire incident is a perfect example of the illogical response some school officials and police officers are having to normal childhood behavior because of some actual acts of school violence we’ve seen recently,” said ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Rita Sklar.

The drawings were confiscated last December by school officials at Bates Elementary School in Fayetteville. The school contacted the police, who interrogated the children, all without the parents’ knowledge. The police contacted the prosecuting attorney’s office, which later filed the family services petition.

The petition forced the family into court, where the ACLU defended the boy and his parents. “We won without firing a shot,” said ACLU volunteer attorney and former juvenile judge Mack Luffman of Rogers. “The prosecution’s own witness, the principal, testified that the boy was not a discipline problem and that the school was not concerned about his being violent; the judge dismissed the case.”

In the past year, the ACLU has received a flood of calls from parents and students who have experienced a crackdown in security and zero tolerance in their schools’ policies. “We realize that tragic events have taken place among our children recently, and that we must be aware of real threats of violence; but we must also be able to distinguish those acts from normal childhood behavior,” Sklar said.

Sklar said that the ACLU of Arkansas plans to push for legislation at the next legislative session requiring that parents be notified by school officials immediately when their children are either questioned or arrested by police.

“We are very concerned about the rights of children in the face of adults’ sometimes irrational fears,” said the boy’s parents, Pam and Craig Murry. “Schools are always encouraging parents to become more involved with their children’s school activities; not calling parents first when something like this happens creates an atmosphere of tension between the child, the school and the parent.”

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