In the latest case of what one apparently cannot do and be black in this country, a 10-year-old black child is facing an assault charge because he (allegedly) hit another child (and, yes, a white child) in the face while playing a game of dodge ball.
The black child’s mom, Cameishi Lindley, tells WXYZ 7 Action News Detroit that she almost couldn’t believe it when she got a call last week from Wayne County Juvenile Court. The official at the other end of the line told her that her 10-year-old son was going to be charged with aggravated assault regarding what happened during the game at his school on April 29.
Lindley described the game her son and the other boy were playing at Ruth Eriksson Elementary in Canton, Mich., as a type of dodge ball, but one where the balls are thrown in the air.
According to WXYZ, a police report indicates that a student was struck in the face with a ball, and that Lindley’s son hit that child on purpose.
The mother of the struck child told WXYZ that her child has a medical condition that makes head injuries especially dangerous. (Then why was he allowed to play dodge ball in the first place?)
“He sustained facial tissue damage to his face. He had a black eye and a bruised nose,” the other mother told WXYZ.
Medical records showed her child also suffered a concussion, WXYZ reports.
Lindley said her son received a one-day suspension for the rough play, and she told reporters that she thought that was the end of it. She was incredulous that her child is now facing a criminal charge over a game. A pre-trial conference is set for Thursday.
“These kids are basically playing a game we all have played,” Lindley told WXYZ.
The other mother, who told WXYZ she wanted neither she nor her child to be named, said her son
had been targeted before, and that she reported it to the school in mid-April, prior to the April 29th incident.
“My son was hit twice in the face with a ball previously due to this. The child apologized to my son and my son said ‘mom it’s okay we’re still going to be friends’.”
She said April 29th was the final straw, and that she was worried for her kid’s safety.
For her and her child’s part, Lindley told the news station that neither she nor her son was aware of the other child’s medical condition, and that she is sorry the other child was hurt:
“I am unaware of any of those situations,” Lindley said. “I’m sorry that her child got hurt. I’d be sorry for any child that got hurt.”
She only wishes problems like this could be solved in the classroom, not the courtroom.
And, now, instead of raising funds for oh, say, college, Lindley has had to take to social media in a bid to raise money to pay for her 10-year-old’s legal bills. At time of this writing, her fundraising efforts on Facebook had surpassed her stated goal of $4,000.
An elementary schoolyard ruckus resolved “in the classroom, not the courtroom.” Novel concept.
Especially when research shows that black children are disproportionately punished, outright criminalized and viewed as more mature than white children. It’s much of what the school-to-prison pipeline is all about.
Also? We’re talking about a game of dodge ball!
By definition, dodge ball involves getting slammed in the body (yes, sometimes the face) by a ball if you unfortunately don’t duck or move fast enough. And yes, you’re “targeted” by your opponents. That is the “goal” of the game, after all. (I got my fair share of hits as a kid.)
That said, the merits of dodge ball in today’s world for today’s kids have been hotly debated in recent years, with some schools and districts banning it. Maybe that should have happened here.
But this case really raises questions when one looks at the elements as WXYZ reports: fourth-graders, with fourth-grade minds and sensibilities (was there adult supervision of any kind? where were school officials?); a child with a medical condition still being allowed to play dodge ball (how Sway?); and the biggest issue of all — the criminalization (and traumatizing) of a 10-year-old black child.
All for playing a schoolyard game.