A 14-year-old Virginia boy will go to trial after being hit with multiple charges for “stealing” a 65-cent milk carton from his school cafeteria, even though he was enrolled in the free-lunch program, the Huffington Post reports.
Back in May, Ryan Turk was charged with petit larceny and disorderly conduct after a Prince William County police officer assigned to Ryan’s school accused him of stealing the milk.
Ryan ended up being handcuffed and taken to the principal’s office, where he was searched for drugs, Ryan’s mom, Shamise Turk, told news station WTVR at the time of the incident.
Ryan’s family is outraged and has since accused the officer of unfairly targeting the boy because he is black. According to the Washington Post, the family refused to accept nonjudicial punishment on the charges, leading to a trial date being set for November for the teen, who is now a high school freshman.
“My son is not going to admit to something he did not do,” Turk said.
Ryan will face the criminal charges just days after his 15th birthday.
Ryan and his mom both acknowledge that he did take a carton of milk last school year, but they say he was entitled to it. Ryan says he forgot to take his drink the first time he went through the lunch line at the Graham Park Middle School cafeteria, and so he turned around to grab it.
However, the school resource officer said he saw the teen cutting the line and stealing the milk. Police charge that when Ryan was told to go to the principal’s office, he “refused and became disorderly,” according to HuffPost, which received a statement from authorities.
“When the officer attempted to escort him to the office, the student leaned back and pushed against the officer,” the statement read. “As they were approaching the principal, the student attempted to push past the officer to get away. The student was subsequently handcuffed and taken to the office without further incident.”
In May, Ryan acknowledged that he had “yanked away” from the officer, telling the officer to “get off” because the officer was not his dad. However, the family’s attorney insists that Ryan was being treated unfairly for merely not wanting to go along with the officer.
“No one needs to be punished for stealing a 65-cent carton of milk,” Emmett Robinson, a lawyer representing the family, said. “This officer treats kids like they’re criminals, and guess what happens—they’re going to become criminals.”
A spokesperson for Prince William Public Schools released a statement Monday saying that the school did not play a part in how the incident was handled beyond academic discipline, noting that it was local authorities who brought legal charges in the case.
Spokesman Philip B. Katvis said that Ryan was suspended because he broke the school’s code of conduct.
“As every parent and student knows, principals must look at how a student behaved, and how that behavior affects both the student and others at the school. Following that determination, principals act in the best interest of all concerned,” he said.
When asked about the allegations of racism, Kavits pointed out that both the school’s principal and the officer who handled the arrest are also black.
“These individuals are well known in our highly diverse community for their dedication and caring approach to ALL students,” he wrote, according to HuffPost.