Raleigh – On March 7, 2014 Selina Garcia, a senior at Southeast Raleigh high school was suspended from school because of allegations that she committed level II infractions on a school bus – “physical aggression/fighting” and “class/activity disturbance.” Her administrator suspended her for 5 days, noting that there were lots of mitigating factors present, including prolonged and explicit harassment by the other student involved in the incident. However, the SRO at school decided that this wasn’t enough – said that she needed to “learn a lesson,” and so he arrested her and took her to jail. He made this determination despite the fact that she posed NO safety threat to the school environment.
The officer made the conscious choice to criminalize her. She wanted to focus on graduating this Spring, and needed to be in school to accomplish that goal none of that mattered to him – all that mattered was asserting his dominance and “teaching her a lesson”
“Jail isn’t going slow me down nor stop me. They think its going break me but I am still going on.” Said Selina in a letter written to NC HEAT “In here I am no longer Selina Marie Garcia. I am #34! Not a human being but a caged animal with the number
She has now been incarcerated for 12 full days as a result of that officer’s choice
- For 12 days, she has been dehumanized, stripped of all sense of pride or dignity
- For 12 days, no one has called her by her name – they simply call her #34
- For 12 days, she has slept in a cage on a hard metallic bed with a paper-thin mattress, no pillow, and a blanket that smells like metal and rust
- For 12 days, she has worn a striped jumpsuit, told when and what she can eat, when she can shower, when she can sleep – treated as nothing more than a caged animal
- For 12 days, she has lived among adult women who are drugged into oblivion so that they can be “controlled,” striving to keep herself together so that she doesn’t have to be similarly medicated
- For 12 days, she has been forbidden to listen to music – which has been her only constant solace through a lifetime of trauma and transitions. So she copes by singing to herself and anyone who will listen, earning the nickname “Pandora” from her fellow cell-mates
- For 12 days, she has been the only high school female in a jail that isn’t equipped for students, sitting in an empty “classroom” on only 2 occasions without computer access for her online gradpoint classes, falling farther and farther behind
In addition in Selina letter to NC HEAT she stated, “Broadcast everything go to the news and see if they can get it live on TV. I trust you with my story and to let it be heard. Write me and keep me updated on everything that’s going on”
When the SRO arrested her, he likely thought that she would go to jail for a couple hours and then be picked up by her family. But, 12 days later, there’s no end in sight for her:
- When you’re in foster care, no one HAS to come pick you up, even when there’s no bail to pay.
- When you’re in foster care, an arrest can cause you to get kicked out of the closest thing to a home you have, leaving your future even more uncertain
- When you’re in foster care, an arrest can make you lose scholarship grants from DSS that would provide you with your only real option to go to college
She has faced all of these repercussions based only on allegations of level II misconduct at school. Yet neither the SRO nor the school officials who have subjected her to these punishments face any repercussions for their actions. She is out of sight out of mind for them. This experience has not and WILL NOT break her. She is stronger than you can imagine, and will come out on top. But her story will not be kept silent, and we will not let you keep your eyes closed to what is really happening to students who are pushed out of school and into prisons.
We demand an end to the School-To-Prison-Pipeline. Wake County must take action by investing in hiring counselors, not more cops, place a moratorium or temporary pause on all out of school suspensions and implement restorative justice practices into the school system. This incident is one example of how Wake County schools are failing us.