Middle School Student Handcuffed and Charged With a Crime For Taking ‘Free’ Milk

May 25, 2016 Updated: May 25, 2016

A middle school student in Virginia was handcuffed, suspended from school, and charged with a crime after taking free milk, his mother said. The student apparently got a carton of milk via the National School Lunch Program.

Shamise Turk’s son Ryan was on the school’s free lunch program, and the 65-cent carton of milk, she said, was supposed to be free.

Ryan, according to his mom, went back to the lunch line to get milk on May 10 at Graham Park Middle School in Triangle, Virginia, WJLA -TV reported. There, a Prince William County Police Officer accused the boy of stealing the milk.

Police then said Ryan became disorderly and was placed in handcuffs.

“I yanked away from him I told him to get off of me because he’s not my Dad,” the middle school student told the station, confirming that he pulled away from the cop.

The boy was taken to the principal’s office and was searched for drugs, his mother said. “Because he was fidgety, kept pulling on the strings of his pants, and laughing when we were trying to talk to him and just wouldn’t talk,” Shamise Turk said.

Ryan Turk was charged with larceny and was ordered to appear in juvenile court as a result.

“This is ridiculous… this is beyond embarrassing… he’s at home for 65 cents,” Shamise Turk told the ABC affiliate. “I’m angry, I’m frustrated, I’m mad. It just went too far. They are charging him with larceny, which I don’t have no understanding as to why he is being charged with larceny when he was entitled to that milk from the beginning.”

Police claimed Ryan attempted to “conceal” the milk, resulting in the larceny charge. His mother denied it.

The school attempted to explain why he was suspended from class.

“The need for disciplinary action is determined by how a student behaves throughout any given incident,” a school spokesperson told the station, saying he was suspended for theft, using his phone in school, and being disrespectful.

“An appeals process is in place to ensure the fairness of any disciplinary action.”

Should schools better regulate officers?

According to Education Week, school police should take a different approach:

Others have said schools need to do a better job setting boundaries between routine disciplinary issues better handled by school administrators and the kinds of crime or violence that school police should respond to.

Discipline reform advocates have also said school-based officers should be trained in conflict de-escalation techniques that are sensitive to students’ development and experience with trauma. That sort of training could stop a misunderstanding over a carton of milk from growing, they say.

It added that there is not much consistency in the way school police officers are trained across the United States.

The American Institutes for Research has said that many states do not have laws that set training requirements for school officers.