Suspensions, handcuffs, jail — middle school discipline falls heavily on vulnerable kids

Alan is pictured with his mother, Juliet, in Deming, NM on February 13, 2021. Alan, who has Tourette Syndrome, has struggled with teachers and peers at school because of his involuntary outbursts.

Pep rallies are supposed to be joyful, loud and unabashed. Having just turned 12 in the fall of 2017, Alan bubbled over with excitement ahead of his first rally at Deming Intermediate School in Deming, New Mexico, a small city near the Mexican border.

Alan is a soulful boy going through life with a collection of medical conditions including Tourette syndrome. His tics and shouts, all beyond his control, make him an easy target for bullies and, to some school staff, a problem student to be corrected. (We are using Alan’s middle name to protect his privacy.)

At the rally that October day, Alan began stomping and shouting, cheering for his new school. The girls sitting one bleacher seat down from his told school staff he was kicking them — a claim Alan and his mother, Juliet Moreno, deny.

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