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Can my teenager be charged for a school fight?

Indiscretions are expected in youth. There are growing pains and mistakes made on the path to becoming a responsible adult. Yet, there is a precedent of charging minors as adults, with the real threat of serving time and a permanent record when teenagers act out.

Schoolyard fights aren't the shoving matches and posturing shown in old movies, and they don't always end with a teacher or principal separating two smaller bodies with ease. Sometimes tempers flare, punches fly, and teeth are knocked loose or bones broken. It can be a serious event with potentially serious consequences.

With anxiety about school violence heightened, schools and parents often have a zero tolerance policy with fights.

Legal action is common.

What constitutes assault?

In the state of Texas, assault is the intentional causing or threat of harm to another. This can occur in a fight and, if it escalates too far, can be upgraded to the more serious charge of aggravated assault. Although anyone under the age of 18 is legally viewed as a minor, it's common to punish children as adults for willful acts. More so, many high schoolers are 18 years of age and will be punished as adults regardless of their student status.

Who should handle a schoolyard fight?

Typically, anything that begins on school property will be addressed by the school first. This includes breaking up the fight, as well as on-premise punishment, but the consequences of a fight reach beyond the school grounds.

Texas anti-bullying laws require a definite process within the school, but if a parent seeks additional damages or charges, they have that right. Sometimes parents aren't satisfied with the school's response, and other times they wish to make an example to protect their own children.

What happens next?

If your teenager is charged with assault there are methods to keep a conviction off his or her permanent record, which is sealed at age 18. Most often, this includes a plea agreement to enroll in an anger management class, pay fines, or serve community service hours. It's a nuanced process that requires flexibility, time, and dedication, and an attorney can help smooth the process while keeping your teenager from doing any permanent damage to his or her future.

Being a parent means protecting your child. Even if a mistake was made, it shouldn't affect the rest of his or her life.

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R. Todd Bennett, P.C.
1545 Heights Blvd. Suite 600
Houston, TX 77008

Phone: 713-752-2728 | Fax: 713-650-1602
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