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Punishment For City Students Caught Rioting May Be On Hold

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Punishment promised for city students involved in the riots connected to the death of Freddie Gray may be on the way. But several groups of children's rights advocates are banding together, asking school leaders to put the punishments on hold.

Gigi Barnett has more.

Police say many of the rioters in a crowd seen from Sky Eye Chopper 13 throwing bricks and rocks at city officers during the Freddie Gray protests are teens. Some of them allegedly left school early to clash with police.

School leaders scoured videotape, trying to identify the students involved, promising swift justice.

"We had some kids leave here before the bell, and that's not acceptable. They will be certainly punished for that," said Baltimore City Schools' CEO Gregory Thornton.

But not so fast, Baltimore City Schools.

"If you kick them out of school, where are they going to go? They're going to be home. Idle minds," said Nikki Harris.

"It seems to me like things that are related to school should be dealt with in school and things that are beyond school should be dealt with by other appropriate authorities," said Jon Dillow.

That's the bottom line of a new coalition of children's rights organizations. They're teaming up and asking school leaders to do away with their promise to suspend or expel students caught rioting.

"If we push the kids out of school with expulsions and suspensions, it's just going to exacerbate their problems," said Kate Rabb, Advocates for Children and Youth Education.

Rabb's group is one of the organizations backing the request to school leaders. She says the district's hand is too heavy on this one.

"I'm not saying they shouldn't be punished. Children who misbehave, young people who do the wrong thing, really should have consequences for their actions," said Rabb. "Simply sending kids home, taking them away from their instructional time, just further disengages them."

The coalition says it wants school leaders to stick to their code of conduct to properly punish students.

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