Free Shaquanda Cotton

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If there’s still doubt over if there is a disparity in sentencing along racial and class lines, look no further than the story of 14-year-old Shaquanda Cotton.

Cotton, a native of Paris, Texas – a city that likes to tout itself as the “best small town” in Texas – is coming under fire after sentencing Cotton to seven years in prison for shoving a hall monitor.

And then there is the case that most troubles Cherry and leaders of the Texas NAACP, involving a 14-year-old black freshman, Shaquanda Cotton, who shoved a hall monitor at Paris High School in a dispute over entering the building before the school day had officially begun. The youth had no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor–a 58-year-old teacher’s aide–was not seriously injured. But Shaquanda was tried in March 2006 in the town’s juvenile court, convicted of “assault on a public servant” and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years, until she turns 21.

One shove equals a ruined life?

There was the 19-year-old white man, convicted last July of criminally negligent homicide for killing a 54-year-old black woman and her 3-year-old grandson with his truck, who was sentenced in Paris to probation and required to send an annual Christmas card to the victims’ family. Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family’s house, to probation.

Kill someone and you get probation and a required trip to the Hallmark store. Burn your own family’s home down and you get probation. Shove a hall monitor and you’re sentenced to 7 years in prison. That sounds fair, right?

There are the Paris public schools, which are under investigation by the U.S. Education Department after repeated complaints that administrators discipline black students more frequently, and more harshly, than white students.

As you continue reading the article, you’ll learn of other problems Shaquanda has had with the school, as well as her mother’s acknowledgment that Shaquanda has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – which she is taking prescription medication for.

Click here to read information on how you can write Shaquanda, the judge, and Governor Perry.

I would go on, but it’s better for you to read the article yourself. It’s frustrasting, not surprising, and again, frustrating.

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