Greetings Hickman Mills C-1 Staff and Parents,
We are sharing important information related to changes in Missouri criminal codes that may have an impact on students in the Hickman Mills C-1 community. The purpose behind the implementation of the new laws is to protect students who fall victim to bullying and to discourage students from engaging in any sort of physical altercations.
As of January 1, 2017, substantial revisions to some of the Missouri criminal codes took effect. There are a few changes that could have a significant effect on School Districts across the state.
The amended code includes a new felony harassment offense under Section 565.090 RSMo.
A person now commits harassment in the first degree, a class E felony, if “he or she, without good cause, engages in any act with the purpose to cause emotional distress to another person, and such act does cause such person to suffer emotional distress.” Emotional distress is defined as “something markedly greater than the level of uneasiness, nervousness, unhappiness, or the like which are commonly experienced in day-to-day living.” § 565.002 (7).
The new offense of Harassment in the first degree must be reported to law enforcement under the Safe Schools Act, under §160.261(2)(24), and this offense may be classified as a felony.
The criminal code (Section 565.054) states: “If a person knowingly causes physical injury to another person, then he or she has committed assault in the third degree.” Anyone who is found guilty of assault in the third degree, no matter his/her age, may be charged with a Class E Felony. Physical injury, which used to include pain, is now defined as “slight impairment of any function of the body or temporary loss of use of any part of the body.” If two students engage in a fight at school, on the bus, or on District property, and injury ensues, one or both persons may be charged with a felony.
Some school fights or bullying may fit under the new third-degree-assault offense and could be charged as felonies under the new statute (such as physical altercations that result in sprains, bleeding, or significant bruising).
Most of what was third degree assault under the old statutes (such as attempt to cause physical injury, offensive touching, and causing apprehension of immediate injury), is now included in a new offense of misdemeanor fourth degree assault. The list of offenses included below (RS. Mo. 565.056) all amount to assault in the fourth degree:
(1) The person attempts to cause or recklessly causes physical injury, physical pain, or illness to another person;
(2) With criminal negligence the person causes physical injury to another person by means of a firearm;
(3) The person purposely places another person in apprehension of immediate physical injury;
(4) The person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person;
(5) The person knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical contact with a person with a disability, which a reasonable person, who does not have a disability, would consider offensive or provocative; or
(6) The person knowingly causes physical contact with another person knowing the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
Please note, Hickman Mills C-1 School District has no discretion in reporting these incidents to law enforcement when there has been a violation of any of the Missouri criminal codes or the potential legal outcome of these incidents. Administration wants all parents to be aware that a report made to law enforcement arising from a physical altercation could result in their child being charged with a felony.
We want our students to understand that engaging in violent behavior may result in a felony charge that will impact them for life; possible loss of freedom, loss of college opportunities, loss of military opportunities, loss of job opportunities, loss of right to vote in some instances, loss of hunting rights (cannot own or possess a gun), and potentially the loss of certain governmental benefits.
Q: Were these changes targeting schools specifically?
A: The changes to the criminal code were not specifically directed at schools or students—this is an entire overhaul that affects all Missouri citizens.
Q: How will this impact reporting of incidents at schools?
A: The law will not change the reporting requirements for schools. Schools have always been required to report incidents when someone has been hurt.
Q: What does this mean for students who are involved in these kinds of incidents?
A: The change in the law that is most concerning is that fights at school, on the bus, while walking home from school (or that occur anywhere) could result in a felony charge.
Q: Who decides what a student involved in an incident is charged with?
A: School districts do not make the decision on whether a person is charged with a misdemeanor, a felony, or nothing at all. The decision is made by the prosecuting attorney in consultation with the police department.
Q: What is an example of third degree assault?
A: A student hitting, kicking, punching, or otherwise causing physical harm to another amounts to a third degree assault. Any student who engages in fights may be charged with a felony.
Q: What is an example of fourth degree assault?
A: A fourth-degree assault occurs when a student acts recklessly, causing harm to another, or attempts to cause physical harm to another, but does not succeed in doing so. The best example of a fourth degree assault is if a student attempts to punch another student, but the victim is able to avoid being hit, or a student chases another and makes serious threats of harm (i.e. I’m going to hurt you) and the victim is in apprehension of immediate physical injury but able to avoid a confrontation.
Q: In relation to third degree assault, please elaborate on “knowingly causes physical injury to another person”.
A: As for the “knowingly” part of the new definition of third degree assault, the new criminal code states that a person acts “knowingly,” regarding the result of their actions if he or she is “aware that his or her conduct is practically certain to cause that result.” In the context of third degree assault then, there must be awareness that the act is practically certain to cause physical injury (as defined above). That means accidental or simply reckless behavior would not suffice.
Q: How is bullying defined in Board Policy JFCF?
A: In accordance with state law, bullying is defined as intimidation, unwanted aggressive behavior, or harassment that is repetitive or is substantially likely to be repeated and causes a reasonable student to fear for his or her physical safety or property; that substantially interferes with the educational performance, opportunities or benefits of any student without exception; or that substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school. Bullying includes, but is not limited to: physical actions, including violence, gestures, theft, or property damage; oral, written, or electronic communication, including name-calling, put-downs, extortion, or threats; or threats or reprisal or retaliation for reporting such acts.