500 signatures reached
To: District Attorney Susan L. Opper
#FreeTyroneWaukesha - Disabled teen stands up to school bullying and faces 10 years in prison
Do the right thing and drop all charges now to cease the violence towards Tyrone and to continue his healing with family and community.
Why is this important?
In Fall 2019, 17-year-old Tyrone Smith transferred to Waukesha South High School in Wisconsin. As a new student with documented disabilities, Tyrone also had an IEP (Individualized Education Program). Shortly after his arrival, he experienced ongoing intimidation, verbal abuse, and threats of violence. The necessary steps needed for Tyrone to be successful were never implemented by the school, and little was being done about the bullying he consistently faced. According to Tyrone and his legal counsel, on December 2nd, 2019, Tyrone brought a BB gun to school to intimidate his school bullies. After discovering the BB gun, all students and staff were removed from the classroom. Instead of the school practicing holistic care for Tyrone, they called law enforcement who have a well-documented history of violence against Black and brown boys. The School Resource Officer (SRO) and other officers on the scene confronted Tyrone. Tyrone, a child with known disabilities, was following commands to the best of his abilities, but the officer shot him three times, once in the leg, and twice in the arm. Portions of his body are shattered from the violent confrontation, and he now has permanent physical disabilities as a result.
Tyrone, now 19, sits in jail and is facing ten years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines for a BB gun that was never fired. He is a young Black boy with disabilities growing up in a suburban white community. The school system failed him, and he was forced to take a stand to protect himself as a result of persistent bullying. Ten years in prison is not an appropriate or a just response! Right now, Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper has the power to drop all charges against Tyrone, immediately. We are urging Opper to do the right thing and drop all charges now to cease the violence towards Tyrone and to continue his healing with family and community.
Tyrone’s criminalization by way of these excessive charges fits the pattern of Black people, in general,--and Black, intellectually-disabled boys specifically--being denied the right to equitable outcomes in US legal systems. Black, intellectually disabled boys are not seen by courts or society as being vulnerable to violence, even though they experience disproportionate levels of violence compared to white, neurotypical boys. Overall, Black boys are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than white boys. Studies by the Southern Poverty Law Center show that children with emotional disturbances are twice as likely as students with other disabilities to be living in a correctional facility, halfway house, drug treatment center or on the street after leaving school and are three times as likely as other students to be arrested before leaving school. A national study by The Center for Civil Rights Remedies showed that Black students with disabilities lost 121 days (per 100 students enrolled) of instruction due to school suspensions compared to 43 days for white students with disabilities (2015-16). Wisconsin reported 119 instructional days lost (per 100 enrolled) for Black students with disabilities versus 28.4 instructional days lost for white students with disabilities, an even larger gap. A 2013 study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate of Black men in the U.S. The Race to Equity project noted in 2018 that Black youth between ages 10-17 are three times more likely to be arrested than white youth; and once arrested Black youth are 15 times more likely to be incarcerated.
The charges against Tyrone signal to his family and the larger community that Black, intellectually-disabled boys do not live lives worth saving. Tyrone was a child and was being verbally abused and threatened with violence. Black boys have the right to a safe learning environment. Intellectually-disabled, Black boys, including Tyrone, need community and comprehensive support to heal from the trauma and violence they endure within predominantly white institutions charged with their care. Incarceration at this young, formative age does not provide needed healing; rather, it compounds the trauma. Incarceration is not an approach to meeting young people’s needs; rather, experts have highlighted incarceration as part of the problem. Tyrone has already been incarcerated for a year; he should not spend any more of his life in prison. In Tyrone Smith’s case, justice means dropping all charges. Back on December 2nd, 2019, Tyrone felt abandoned and alone by a school system that didn’t protect him. Don’t let Tyrone stand alone. Stand with him today by signing this petition to have these charges dropped. Let’s get Tyrone the real help and support he deserves.