Juvenile offenders attend public schools

Tuesday, December 4th 2007, 11:30 am
By: News 9

There's no question Oklahoma students have a lot on their plates. High school students have to deal with grueling final exams, hours of homework, and the confusing time of adolescence. One more item to add to their plate-loads now is their safety in school.

With juvenile delinquents being allowed to attend regular public schools, parents and students are becoming more than a little concerned.

"A juvenile delinquent is just one step away from being, or possibly being, a criminal," said Veronique Walker, a concerned parent and teacher.

As a teacher at a local metro school, Walker's frustrations are growing as the violence in her school swells. Her concern reached fever-pitch after juvenile delinquents from a public school across town attacked her son.

According to the Oklahoma County Juvenile Bureau, 536 Oklahoma County students are on probation. Thirteen of those students are being monitored with ankle bracelets. Of those students, two are considered violent offenders-- one is attending a Midwest and Del City area school and the other is enrolled in an Oklahoma City Public School. But the county does not want to give up on these troubled youths just yet.

"We have a lot of kids who really feel like they don't have much hope and our job is to turn them around," said Judge Richard Kirby, a judge in the Oklahoma County Juvenile Court.

However, the expense of turning these juvenile delinquents into productive citizens should not come at the cost of the innocent.

Veronique's son Julian, 18, knows firsthand how quickly some of these juvenile delinquents can become dangerous.

"The first hit knocked out my front teeth; and then I tried to fight back, but he just got the best of me," said Julian. "I couldn't move my jaw. It was busted to one side and I just remember bleeding profusely."

The fight all started after some of Julian's friends attended a Friday night football game at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School. According to Julian's mother, some boys threw cans at Julian's friends and then drove off. Moments later, she claims her son, who wasn't even there during the can-throwing incident, and his friends were lured to a house near Northwest 43rd and Shartel Ave. In that house, Julian found himself in the middle of a violent confrontation. 

NEWS 9 learned some of the students involved in this attack (whose names are being withheld because of their age) are juvenile delinquents attending local public schools. These delinquents were allowed to attend public school because the crimes they had committed, prior to this attack, were non-violent misdemeanors. 

The system is in a Catch 22. On one hand, the county does not want to turn their backs on these young offenders, leaving them to slip into a cycle of crime.

"When kids are kicked out of school, they have no place to go," said Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. "They're out on the street. What happens, they get brought into the gangs."

On the other hand, Prater acknowledges the rest of the students should not be the ones to pay the price. He points out that there are alternative schools for students committing more violent crimes and that some troubled youths could be sent there if they continue on that path. Veronique believes those provisions should remain in place, even for her son's attacker.

"I don't want to see him in jail. I don't want to see him incarcerated," said Walker. "I want to see him held accountable, and then want to see him helped. And then I want to see him graduate college one day."

A court date was set for Julian Walker's attacker, but he did not show up.  The suspect later turned himself in after a bench warrant was issued. A new court date has been set.

If you have any concerns about your child attending school with a juvenile delinquent District Attorney David Prater encourages you to check with your child's school.

Originally Aired: 11-05-2007