Policing Disability: Update on Kayleb Moon-Robinson

Eleven-year-old Kayleb Moon-Robinson was convicted in April of felony charges for kicking a trash bin and defending himself against an aggressive police officer in his Virginia school. PopFront covered Kayleb’s case as part of an investigation into a disturbing trend of police brutality towards disabled minorities (Kayleb is autistic and black). With his sentencing pending in June and an appeal currently in process to overturn his convictions, what is Kayleb’s case status?

Astonishingly, Kayleb’s former school district has made no attempt at transparency, nor apologized for the incidents leading up to Kayleb’s arrest. When contacted, the representative for Lynchburg City Schools released the following statement:

“We’re at a distinct disadvantage in responding. We cannot reply to all of the specific allegations that have been made because the law doesn’t allow us to discuss the specifics regarding the child or the court proceedings. The public is only hearing one side of the story, and based on our investigation of this matter, the incident did not take place in the manner in which it was portrayed. SROs [School Resource Officers] play an important role in the school division, and we have and will continue to work together on procedures for when SROs should become involved in incidents involving students. We feel they are being unfairly portrayed in this matter.”

Besides this statement, district officials have not responded to other allegations concerning the police officer’s misbehavior. The district is also currently under investigation for its high student-to-court referral rates. Kayleb has not returned his former middle school since his arrest—he is currently attending an alternative school awaiting sentencing.

Fortunately, there has been an overwhelming amount of support for Kayleb. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Council for Autism and Neurodiversity, and the Virginia Legal Aid Justice Center’s Just Children Program released statements in support of Kayleb and his family. Al Jazeera America, Salon, Reveal News, and other major media outlets covered Kayleb’s ordeal. Multiple Twitter campaigns were launched towards Virginia officials, including Governor Terry McAuliff and Virginia’s Department of Education. And the Change.org petition for Kayleb has, as of today, garnered over 125,000 supporters worldwide.

The biggest step in Kayleb’s favor is recent gubernatorial action. On May 14th, Governor McAuliffe announced he would take recommendations for applicable policy changes to combat police disciplinary actions against minority and disabled students. Given Virginia has more students referred to police and courts than any other state, this is a major step in the right direction. This initiative could make a difference in how schools across Virginia operate and how students across the board are treated.

But what about Kayleb himself? With his sentencing coming up in June, there is pressure to see that Kayleb gets the justice he deserves. So here’s what you can do:

The time to take action is now. Don’t let Kayleb become another statistic of young black disabled kids the law treats with contempt. Being black and autistic is not a crime.

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