What happened to Ja'eisha Scott in St. Petersburg, Florida is part of a statewide trend, which was studied and documented in a special report to the St. Petersburg Times in the year 2000. That's right—five years ago.
Here are some of the relevant statistics:
Pinellas [which includes St. Petersburg] and Hillsborough counties lead the state in cases of children 11 and younger being charged with crimes.Of course the statewide statistics don't necessarily tell us anything about what occurs in Ja'eisha's school system. But information gathered about the Pinellas County school system is grim:
Meanwhile, statewide, there is a stark difference among arrests of children by race -- one that gets sharper as the children get younger. . . .
It's not unexpected that Pinellas and Hillsborough would rank high on the list, because each county is home to more than 100,000 school-age children. Hillsborough County has the third-highest number of schoolchildren in the state, and Pinellas has the seventh-highest number, according to 1998 state Department of Education figures. . . .
The data show 40.5 percent of juveniles 12 and older charged with crimes are African-American. But for children under 12, the percentage jumps to 55 percent African-American.
And for youths in detention centers, the juvenile version of jails, 57.2 percent were African-American.
This is in spite of the fact that roughly 21 percent of school-age children are African-American, according to state Department of Education figures. (Emphasis added.)
[W]hen the St. Petersburg Times asked the Pinellas school system for felony police reports of kids age 11 and under, it handed over 71 reports for a 16-month period. In other words, more than one per week, and that didn't include misdemeanors.Remember these numbers are from 2000, and the incidents were then on the increase since the mid-nineties. I would hazard a guess that the numbers are much worse now.
"We are seeing, from year to year, more things happening in the elementary division," said Joe Feraca, chief of the Pinellas schools' campus police.
Five years ago in Pinellas County, eight kids under 12 went through "juvenile arbitration," a counseling program mostly for young, first-time offenders. Last year the number grew to 139.
Photo: A 8-year-old is fingerprinted at the Juvenile Assessment Center in Largo after he was arrested on charges including battery on a law enforcement officer. (Cherie Diez)