Football brawl: Ann Arbor schools will ask prosecutor to drop charges against 3 teens
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
- Ann Arbor school board to consider resolution in support of students charged in football brawl
- Football brawl fallout: Some allege prejudice in charging of students
- Group supporting high-schoolers charged in football brawl organizes public marches downtown
- Video footage from Huron-Pioneer football brawl released by Ann Arbor police
The Ann Arbor Board of Education passed a resolution Wednesday night asking County Prosecutor Brian Mackie to drop the criminal charges against the three Pioneer High School students involved in the October football brawl.
"We ask that our students, when required to be accountable through the judicial system and thereby learn from their mistakes, be treated with compassion, fairness, equity, efficacy and respect for their ability to learn," the resolution states.
"We therefore recommend that Prosecuting Attorney Brian Mackie consider the best interests of the injured student, the students criminally charged and the community by re-evaluating the degree of criminalization of adolescent behaviors that may be better resolved through a greater emphasis on educational and developmentally appropriate measures relative to harsh charges and convictions."
The idea of a resolution was first brought up at the Feb. 27 school board meeting after a handful of community members spoke out in support of the three students who have been charged in the brawl, which occurred Oct. 12 between the Huron and Pioneer football teams after a heated exchange among coaches.
The community members alleged the students are being treated unfairly because they're black. They said the escalation of this fight to the court system is an example of the over-criminalization and over-charging of young African American males that exists in today's society.
Trustees Andy Thomas and Irene Patalan originally had "grave concerns" about the board passing a resolution and getting involved in what has become a legal matter. Both made minor suggestions for slightly altering the language of the resolution, which the board approved.
Thomas said he tried to listen with an open mind to the community's concerns, both during public comment on Feb. 27 and earlier Wednesday evening, asking the board to take action.
"I tried very hard to get to the point where I felt I could support a resolution such as this," he said.
"I, too, wanted to keep an open mind, knowing that the board wanted to bring forth this resolution," Patalan said. "I read this with an eye as being true of every student that we have. And with that eye, I was very happy with how this reads."
Trustee Glenn Nelson thanked Baskett for her "careful and thoughtful work" on the resolution.
"I'm happy to vote for it," he said.
Baskett said she talked to the community members who spoke at the Feb. 27 meeting prior to drafting the resolution and asked for their suggestions of what it should say.
Thomas added he wanted to clarify one thing and that is that the school district did not in any way make a referral of charges to police.
"The district played no part whatsoever in pursuing or suggesting or in any way stimulating the pressing of charges," he said, adding the police who were present at the football game filed a police report and followed their procedures just as they would with any incident outside of the school district.
Trustee Simone Lightfoot said while the district may not have initiated the charges, it did not attempt to mitigate them either.
"We did not make it clear to the penal system where we felt it should stay," she said, adding it should have stayed a school issue.
Read the complete resolution:
Resolution Requesting Compassion and Fair Treatment for All Involved in the Football Brawl Incident of October 12, 2012
WHEREAS, the mission of the Ann Arbor Public Schools is to ensure each student realizes his or her aspirations while advancing the common good, by creating a world-class system of innovative teaching and learning, and
WHEREAS, we consider all of our sponsored activities part of the educational environment, and
WHEREAS, we expect each student to demonstrate concern for self and others and
WHEREAS, the incident on October 12, 2012, commonly known as the 'football brawl,' resulted in the documented injury of one student and three students being criminally charged, and
WHEREAS, brain development of judgment, wisdom and logic is still developing, meaning adolescents are particularly subject to lasting harm from trauma and also particularly able to learn from mistakes, and
WHEREAS, we as a school district, take responsibility of helping everyone (students and adults) deal with trauma and learn from mistakes occurring in the educational environment from a developmentally appropriate standpoint, and
WHEREAS, the Huron High School Athletic Director and at least one Board of Education trustee, followed up with the injured player and his family with expressions of concern and offers of help, and
WHEREAS, the Ann Arbor Public Schools has done its investigation and taken disciplinary actions against adults and students, and
WHEREAS, we embrace the legitimate prosecutorial concerns about victims' rights and public safety, and
WHEREAS, the Prosecuting Attorney has considerable discretion in prosecutorial decisions, and
WHEREAS, we understand a criminal conviction can greatly harm a student's future, for example, negatively affect his or her ability to obtain school loans, be accepted into some school programs, advance in a career, and obtain licensing in some employment areas.
THEREFORE, we ask that our students, when required to be accountable through the judicial system and thereby learn from their mistakes, be treated with compassion, fairness, equity, efficacy, and respect for their ability to learn, and
WE THEREFORE RECOMMEND that the Prosecuting Attorney, Brian Mackie, consider the best interests of the injured student, the students criminally charged and the community by re-evaluating the degree of criminalization of adolescent behaviors that may be better resolved through a greater emphasis on educational and developmentally appropriate measures relative to harsh charges and convictions.
Below is a video recording of the incident that prompted the charges. It was published on Dec. 18.