School locks 11-year-old Texan boy in solitary after he asks for grief counseling

The Texas Observer has an absolutely harrowing story about Timothy Murray, an 11-year-old currently in fifth grade in the Brownsville Independent School District. This time last year, Timothy won the grand champion prize at the elementary science fair. Six months later, his father passed away from a form of blood cancer.  When the new school year began, the Observer reports, Timothy was shocked to discover that the guidance counselor with whom he'd been working through his grief was no longer at the school; in fact, he didn't see any guidance counselors at the school.

So he brought the issue to the attention of the school's administration. When that didn't work, the bright young fifth-grader emailed the district's superintendent. Apparently his attempts at self-advocacy were not appreciated by the new principal:

On September 8, school administrators told Timothy—who had irked the principal with requests for counseling and for clarification on school dress code policies—that another student alleged that he made threats against [Palm Grove Elementary School Principal Myrta] Garza. Timothy denied the allegation, but Garza called law enforcement, who detained him and placed him in solitary confinement for three days at the Darrell B. Hester Juvenile Detention Center in Brownsville.  

Cameron County prosecutors pushed for Class C felony charges of "terroristic threat" and argued for two more weeks of detention.

Timothy also told the Observer that the principal had repeatedly picked on him:

First for his haircut. And then for not wearing a school uniform—a rule that had not been enforced the prior year. There is no dress code policy posted on the school's website and most photos show students not wearing uniforms. Timothy wrote three handwritten letters to Garza asking her to clarify if wearing the uniform was a school recommendation or policy. Garza never responded but, according to Timothy, would stand outside of his classroom or in the lunchroom to yell, "Uniform, Murray!" 

The Observer does a great job of contextualizing Timothy's story within the existing statutes of Texas State law. The state does allow children as young as 10 to be arrested and criminally charged; and it does, in fact, allow minors to be held in solitary confinement for up to 24 hours. Timothy, however, was held for three days his mother was told that this was due to "COVID precautions."

This 11-year-old Brownsville ISD Honor Student Was Put In Solitary [Josephine Lee / Texas Observer]