Profiles of Kids at Risk - Winner, SD

March 28, 2006

 

Mindi Felix
Mindi is 14 years old and enjoys hanging out with friends and listening to music. She lives with her mother, Donna, and brothers and sisters in Winner, South Dakota.

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Prior to entering kindergarten, she was diagnosed with developmental delays in speech and cognitive areas. She continues to have notable difficulty with expressive language and has been on an Individualized Education Plan for the past eight years.

In April 2005, when Mindi was in 6th grade at the Middle School, she was playing tag and hit a Caucasian classmate who had scratched and cursed at a Native American friend. Principal Brian Naasz decided to have both Native American girls, but not the Caucasian girl, arrested and prosecuted. He called the police and while waiting for them to arrive, isolated Mindi in his office, interviewed her and recorded the interview on audiotape. He had her complete and sign a form titled "Affidavit", in which she admitted to hitting the other student, which he then notarized. Mindi, who was only 13 years old at the time and who suffers from significant cognitive disabilities, was confused and frightened—she obeyed the Principal's instructions. Unaware of her constitutional rights, she wrote out the confession, and did not mention the Caucasian student's cursing or scratching or any other mitigating circumstances. The police then came to transport Mindi to jail.

Mindi's family was served with a Delinquency Petition charging her with Disorderly Conduct and Disturbance of School. Mindi's case was referred to a Court Services Officer for "informal adjustment." After this incident, Principal Naasz had the Winner City Police Department arrest and prosecute Mindi on two additional occasions. Each time, he required Mindi to complete the affidavit form, and each time, the confession was used against her in juvenile court

Taylor White Buffalo
Taylor is 13 years old and lives with his mother and father in Tripp County, South Dakota. He likes to play basketball and his favorite school subject is reading.

In April 2004, when Taylor was in 5th grade, he was playing basketball with two Caucasian students and another Native American classmate. One of the Caucasian classmates refused to turn the ball over to Taylor and instead, pushed Taylor with the ball. Although Taylor asked the boy to stop, he pushed Taylor twice more, at which point Taylor hit the boy.

The Caucasian classmate ran and told a teacher, who sent Taylor to Principal Brian Naasz's office. Principal Naasz decided to have Taylor, and not the Caucasian student, arrested and prosecuted for criminal misconduct. He required Taylor, who was eleven years old at the time, to draft and sign an affidavit in which he confessed to hitting the other student. Principal Naasz notarized the affidavit and handed it over to the police, who came to bring Taylor to jail.

Taylor's family was then served with a Summons and Delinquency Petition charging Taylor with Simple Assault and Disturbance of School on the basis of the single punch. Taylor admitted to the charges against him in court and was placed on probation for 90 days and ordered to complete between 10 and 20 hours of community service.

Later, when Taylor's mother asked the Principal why only Taylor, and not the Caucasian child who initiated the fight, was arrested, Naasz claimed that pushing did not constitute fighting. Naasz claimed that sending Taylor to court was necessary because Taylor would "kill someone next," even though Taylor had never been involved in any prior disciplinary incidents.

Johnathon ("John") Scruggs
John is 13 years old. He loves animals and has many pets. He likes walking his dog, camping and fishing. Prior to entering kindergarten, John was diagnosed as "mildly mentally disabled." Although his academic skills have improved significantly over time, he has substantial learning difficulties. When he was in the 5th grade at the Winner Middle School, he was reading at a 1st grade level and had difficulty with writing and expressive language. John has always had an Individualized Education Plan. John used to live with his mother in Winner, but left to live with his father in Indiana because he was tired of being singled out and discriminated against by Winner schools.

In January 2005, when he was in the 6th grade at the Winner Middle School, John got into a fight with a Caucasian classmate during science class toward the end of the school day. The Caucasian classmate hit John with a metal-edged ruler, and John hit the classmate in response. Upon learning of the incident, Principal Brian Naasz decided to have John, and not the Caucasian student, arrested and prosecuted for criminal misconduct. Principal Naasz placed John in the office and required him to complete and sign a document, on a form titled "Affidavit," in which John confessed to hitting the other boy. Initially, John declined, but the Principal told him he would stay in the room "all day and all night" until the affidavit was completed, and John finally relented. Principal Naasz himself then notarized the document and gave it to the police, to be used to prosecute John in juvenile court. While John was in the Principal's office, his mother had come to school to pick him up; school administrators would not let her see her son or even tell her where John was until after the confession was completed. John was then taken to the jail in a police car. John was not informed at any time of his right to remain silent or any other constitutional rights.

Two weeks later, John's family was served with a Summons and Delinquency Petition from juvenile court, charging John with Disorderly Conduct and Disturbance of School. John admitted to the charges against him, giving him a juvenile record.

Josephine Traversie
Josephine, who goes by "Josie," is 15 years old and has been a student in the Winner School District her whole life. She lives in Winner, South Dakota, with her mother, older sister Amanda, and younger brother Isaac.

In May 2005, when Josie was in the 8th grade, she hit a classmate who had pushed her in the hallway. Principal Brian Naasz saw the fight and grabbed Josie by the arms and escorted her to a nearby detention room, having decided that Josie should be arrested and prosecuted for criminal misconduct. He then forced her to write out and sign a confession, in which she admitted to hitting the other student. He himself then notarized the document and gave it to the police to be used against Josie in juvenile court. Josie was transported to the jail for arrest, and the school made no effort to contact Josie's mother. Later, Josie's family was served with a Delinquency Petition charging Josie with Disorderly Conduct and Disturbance of School. Unrepresented by counsel and confronted with her confession, which was read to her by the judge, Josie admitted to the charges against her and was sentenced to 12 months probation, a record that could haunt Josie for years.

School administrators referred to Josie to the police on several other occasions after that incident. On one occasion, she was arrested for pulling a fire alarm. On another occasion, the school called the authorities because Josie cut a class that she was already failing and required to repeat, claiming that she broke the terms of her probation. Finally, they called the authorities to report that Josie had again broken the terms of her probation after she grabbed the backpack of a Caucasian classmate who had spit on her. On the latter two occasions, Josie was transported from the school to be incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility on an emergency basis, without a hearing and without notifying her family.

Sam Antoine
Sam is 15 years old and is in 9th grade. He lives with his grandmother in Winner.

In October 2003, when Sam was in the 6th grade at the Winner Middle School, Sam hit a Caucasian classmate who was taunting him by calling him "prairie nigger" and shoving him. Upon learning of the fight, Principal Brian Naasz decided to have Taylor arrested and prosecuted. He called the police and had Taylor, who was eleven years old at the time, complete and sign the Affidavit form in which Taylor admitted to hitting the other boy. Naasz notarized the affadavit and handed Sam over to the police to be taken to the jail. He did not attempt to notify Sam's grandmother, and she only happened to learn of her grandson's arrest because she saw him being escorted in the police car from across the street.

A few weeks later, Sam and his family were served with a Delinquency Petition charging Sam with Simple Assault and Disturbance of School. After the judge confronted Sam with the confession and stated that his refusal to cooperate would result in his grandmother losing custody of him, Sam admitted to the charges and was sentenced to six months of probation and community service.

Later, Sam's grandmother complained to the principal about the racist name-calling and asked why Caucasian children were never punished. Principal Naasz responded simply, "We can't watch everybody all the time."

Deidrick Old Lodge
Deidrick is 14 years old and lives with his mother and sister in Winner, South Dakota. He enjoys music and traditional drumming and has formed a drum circle with his friends. Deidrick is physically disabled and unable to fully use his right arm. At the age of five and again at the age of nine, he was diagnosed with learning difficulties and attention deficits. He received special educational services until he was nine, at which time the Winner School District, despite his diagnoses, decided he no longer met the criteria for such services.

In February 2003, when he was in 6th grade, two Caucasian classmates were wrestling in a school hallway as Deidrick walked by. One of the students pushed Deidrick. The other hit him. In response, Deidrick hit one of the students. Principal Brian Naasz decided to have all three boys arrested and prosecuted. He put Deidrick in a conference room and told him that the other two boys were drafting statements describing what happened and ordered Deidrick to do the same. Deidrick, only eleven years old at the time and unaware of his constitutional rights, believed he had no choice but to comply. Principal Naasz gave the confessions over to the police who had come to bring the boys to the jail. School administrators did not contact Deidrick's family, and he remained in jail for three hours before his family learned what happened.

Deidrick's family was served with a Delinquency Petition charging him with Disorderly Conduct and Disturbance of School. The confessions taken by the Principal were attached to and incorporated into the Petition. Deidrick, the only one of the three boys not represented by a lawyer, admitted to the charges against him and sentenced to 90 days probation.

Richard Chasing Hawk
Richard is 15 years old and lives in Winner with his mother, Rose.

In September 2003, when he was in the 7th grade, Richard got into a hitting fight with a Caucasian student over the classroom blackboard; the Caucasian classmate was upset because Richard had erased something from the blackboard. When Principal Brian Naasz learned of the fight, he decided to have the two boys arrested and prosecuted with Simple Assault. He then had both boys complete the Affidavit form confessing to their wrongdoing.

One month later, Richard's family was served with a Summons and Delinquency Petition charging him with Simple Assault and Disturbance of School. Richard admitted to the charges against him, giving him a juvenile record, and was sentenced to 90 days probation.

Two months later, another classmate stabbed Richard in the stomach with a pencil, breaking the skin. Richard hit the classmate in response. Again, Principal Naasz decided to have both boys arrested and prosecuted, and required Richard to write out and sign a confession in which he admitted to hitting the classmate. The confession was attached to the juvenile delinquency petition filed against him.

Charles DuBray
Charles is part of a large and very close-knit extended family. He is 19 years old and lives with his girlfriend and family in Winner.

When Charles was 14 years old, he and a cousin got into a fistfight during the lunch period over a shirt that one of them was wearing. Rather than contacting the children's families to resolve the dispute, the Middle School Principal at the time, Principal David Nicolas, decided to have both boys arrested and prosecuted. Principal Nicolas required Charles to complete and sign a form titled "Affidavit in Support of Criminal Prosecution," in which he admitted to hitting his cousin. Principal Nicolas notarized the document and gave it to the Winner City Police Department who had arrived to take Charles to jail.

Five months later, Charles' family was served with a Delinquency Petition charging him with Simple Assault and Disorderly Conduct on the basis of the school fight. Charles' affidavit was attached to and incorporated into the Petition. He admitted to the charges alleged in the Petition and was sentenced to six months of probation.

Jennifer Peneaux
Jennifer is 19 years old and is a senior in Winner High School. She lives with her boyfriend and her boyfriend's family in Winner, South Dakota.

In January 2005, when Jennifer was in the 11th grade, she got into a fight with another Native American student over a pair of jeans. Principal Mike Hanson decided to have both girls arrested and prosecuted for the fight. He called the police to come and arrest the girls, required them to write out and sign a confession in which they admitted to the wrongdoing, and handed the confessions over to the police who had come to transport the girls to the jail. Jennifer was never informed of her right to remain silent or any other procedural rights.

Because she was already 18, Jennifer was charged in adult criminal court, with Disorderly Conduct and Disturbance of School because of the fight. Her confession was attached to and incorporated into the charging documents. Jennifer pled guilty to one of the charges and was convicted, fined, and sentenced to 10 days suspended in the Tripp County Jail and community service.

Jessie Milk
Jesse is 13 years old and lives with his mother and stepfather in Winner, South Dakota.

When he was in the 7th grade, Principal Brian Naasz suspended Jesse three times. Jesse was suspended twice for fighting with a Caucasian student who purposefully pushed him. On the third occasion, he was suspended for mumbling under his breath that a gym teacher, who had been harassing and belittling Jesse for running slowly during class, was a "motherf----g racist."

Discouraged by his treatment at school, Jessie stopped going to class during parts of the following school year. Rather than trying to address the underlying problems leading to Jesse's truancy, Principal Naasz initiated criminal proceedings against Jesse's mother, Joanne, for failing to send her son to school. Joanne was fined $200 and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Both terms were suspended, but Joanne was told that she would need to pay the fine and go to jail if Jesse had any more unexcused absences or tardies.

In February 2006, Jesse had a jacket tied around his waist while he was walking down the school hallway. Principal Naasz ordered Jesse to remove the jacket, and when Jesse pointed out that other kids were wearing jackets tied around their waists, Principal Naasz threatened to punish him for "insubordination." Princial Naasz then called Jesse's mother and threatened to file a Child in Need of Supervision petition against Jesse in juvenile court if Jesse was ever "insubordinate" again.

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