The case of Quinton Adams underscores the urgency of promoting student safety in public school campuses in Baton Rouge.
Adams, a convicted rapist, was arrested on Feb. 16 for allegedly committing another rape. He is accused of raping a 14-year-old girl on the campus of Tara High School. Adams, who was a Tara student at the time, is awaiting trial as an adult on a count of forcible rape. The family of the 14-year-old girl is suing the East Baton Rouge Parish school system in connection with the alleged rape. School system officials have said that they knew almost nothing about Adams’ prior criminal record while he was at Tara. The Advocate recently documented the Adams case as part of a larger story about juvenile offenders on public school campuses — one of a continuing series of articles about violent crime in the Baton Rouge area.
Adams’ guilt or innocence in connection with his most-recent charges should be considered an open question until his case is heard in court. But the case has already raised some important questions about campus safety. What are school officials allowed to know about students’ prior criminal record? What steps should school officials take to obtain that information? And if a student does have a criminal past, should that student be treated any differently on campus?
Wayne Messina, director of security for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, said that school leaders usually have a hard time getting details about crimes that students committed while under the age of 17.
State law often shields juveniles from public scrutiny when they commit crimes. If this information isn’t made public, as the theory goes, then offenders have a better chance at making a clean start before they become adults. But Mark Dumaine, chief administrative officer for the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office, said that several state laws allow schools to learn more about juvenile offenders, particularly those who have committed violent crimes. East Baton Rouge Parish school system officials have met with East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III and the parish’s two juvenile court judges to learn how information about such cases can be better shared. We hope those discussions prove fruitful.
The Adams case also raises larger public policy questions. Where should juvenile offenders be educated? Since 2003, the juvenile justice system has shifted away from using juvenile jails for young offenders in favor of less-restrictive, community-based programs.
But under Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, state budget cuts have dramatically reduced funding for those programs.
“If you don’t have any juvenile facilities to put (juvenile offenders) in, then it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand where these kids are going back to,” Messina said. “They’re going back to our schools.”
That’s an ironic result from Jindal, who has cast himself as a law-and-order governor.