Special Assignment: Doing Time for School Crime

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February 28, 2007

EVANS, Ga.---Each Wednesday on News 12 at 6 O'Clock we tell you about school crime around our area. But some school crimes end up in court.

Columbia County Juvenile Judge Doug Flanagan invited News 12 into his courtroom to show us how he deals with young people on the wrong side of the law.

"You want me to put you in the YDC?" he asked one student. "I can do it with a flick of a pen."

Judge Doug Flanagan is the law, and the message is straight.

You mess up badly enough, you're headed for the youth detention center off Highway 56.

"Listen to your parents," he said. "Your parents are in charge of the house. You are not.
You're a child."

On the day we visited, the children ranged in age from seven to 16. Many were there for missing too much school...but one Lakeside High student was found with marijuana on campus.

"Stand up son," Judge Flanagan said. "What do you want to tell me?"

"He asked if I wanted to buy some," the boy said. "I said yes. Next Friday he brought it to school.
I gave him $40 dollars. He gave me the weed."

The boy's parents promised to help, and the judge ordered probation, with drug tests.

"If you fail any drug screens, there's a strong possibility we'll come back to court," Judge Flanagan said. "At that time, I have the option to sentence you to confinement."

Judge Flanagan also dealt with a 9th grader at Evans High who's constantly truant.

"If you don't go to school, then I have to make public decisions for you," he said. "Just to let you know--you probably didn't know this--they have high school every day at the YDC."

The judge often orders tutors for those who can't keep up...and the parents have to keep up too.

"In Juvenile Court, the parent also has to sign something which makes them subject to the contempt powers of the court...to make sure the child is doing the right thing."

One father of seven-year-old twins knows that's not always easy.

"Like all parents, all children are a work in progress," he smiled.

Parents are required to be in court with their children, and Judge Flanagan always tells them: when your child is doing something wrong, you have a right to go through their room.

Our area is no stranger to violence in schools.

A 16-year old Glenn Hills student is now in the YDC, accused of raping a girl near the campus.

In late 1999, 14-year-old David Drayton was sentenced to five years in juvenile confinement. He'd stabbed his Murphee Middle School teacher, Gail Hendrick, so severely she has never recovered to this day.

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