Fighting at school could result in felony charge

HAZELWOOD, MO (KTVI) – In an effort to deter future fighting on campus, the Hazelwood School District has put a notice to parents on its website notifying families of the changing state law and how it could impact students who are criminally charged with assault while fighting in school.

Erica Ussery, a graduate of Hazelwood Central High School and now a parent of her own, said it was through social media that she learned of a new statewide law taking effect next week.

“These laws are going into place and we have no idea because we’re not involved to help put them into place or to not put them into place in this case,” Ussery said.

On its website, the district alerted parents of the statewide change in assault laws that will soon classify third and fourth-degree assault as felonies rather than misdemeanors. In its interpretation of the law, the district notifies parents:

“Student(s) who are caught fighting in school, bus or on school grounds may now be charged with a felony (no matter the age or grade level), if this assault is witnessed by one of the School Resource Officers/police officers (SRO) or if the SRO/local law enforcement officials have to intervene.”

Ussery said she understands the change from misdemeanor to felony could help deter any and all forms of fighting, but she believes the law could have unintended consequences.

“Are we really trying to throw these kids’ futures away by giving them a felony charge for something they do in their adolescence, giving them an adult charge when we can do something else to get in front of the situation?” she said.

Charging students with crimes for fighting happens outside by law enforcement outside of schools jurisdiction. But Ussery said she’s hopeful as parents and other districts learn of the possible consequences, they’ll take a proactive approach in keeping their kids safe.

“Instead of being reactive and trying to give these kids a felony charge for fighting in school, let’s be proactive and try to mentor and get more people involved to help with the real issues as to why they’re fighting in the first place, I think that’s more effective.”