April 13, 2023

USA: 12-Year-Old Linked To 2 Stabbings In 1 Week Enrolled Francisco Middle School. San Francisco Parents Outraged Over District's Silence Asking Why They Were Never Notified.

ABC News, San Francisco local
written by Dion Lim
Friday March 24, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7 News has learned that San Francisco police suspect a 12-year-old boy is responsible for two stabbings in less than a week including one where the victim nearly died.

Now some parents and students at the suspect's school are asking why they were never notified about a fellow student being charged with attempted murder.

Long-standing state privacy laws in place to protect juveniles made telling this story challenging. However, it's the lack of information about child suspects allegedly involved in violent crimes that's concerning parents and community members.

"I was shocked, scared and devastated. He was mumbling that he got stabbed and that he couldn't stop the bleeding."

Those words are from the family of a 15-year-old boy who was violently stabbed in what San Francisco police say was a random attack on a Muni bus near Union Square on the afternoon of March 13.

Scared to talk on camera because of safety concerns, they spoke via phone at length and answered questions via text.

"It was shocking and devastating to hear he was stabbed without provoking anyone."

The family was also shocked when they learned the suspect is just 12 years old.

A photo of the knife, which is part of the police investigation was included in police documents. Those papers also show the suspect allegedly threw the knife into some bushes near Stockton and Sutter.

The 15-year-old victim, nearly lost his life when the blade hit an artery in his neck.

"I felt like I was having a heart attack, feeling helpless for not being able to be there," said the family when asked about the moment they learned about the crime.

Documents show the 12-year-old was apprehended a short time later and charged with attempted murder.

One week prior to the Muni bus stabbing on March 6, the boy was named in police documents as the suspect in another stabbing during a robbery near Japantown.

ABC7 News anchor Dion Lim also discovered the boy has a criminal history. Documents reveal he was previously arrested for an additional robbery involving a firearm and was already on juvenile probation

"I'm worried every day because I don't know what's going to happen," said one parent outside Francisco Middle School Monday afternoon, one week after the bus stabbing. That's the school where the suspect in the bus attack is a student.

Multiple parents said they had yet to be informed by the school that the boy was booked for attempted murder.

One parent, who was with his son in a vehicle outside told ABC7 News, "I heard it from my child." Continuing to say, "The school, they don't say nothing. They want to wash their hands."

His son doubled down and said from a student perspective, "They don't give out that information that much. Just kind of have to wait or dig in deep for yourself to find that information and see what happens."

ABC7 News reached out to the San Francisco Unified School District multiple times to see if they did notify the school community about the 12-year-old student's alleged involvement in these serious crimes.

A district spokesperson said they could not talk specifically about this case due to privacy issues, adding, "The district has protocols in place, both to ensure the safety of students and to communicate updates with families, to support schools when an incident occurs involving a particular school community."

The information blackout in this case is not just from the school district. It extends to the juvenile criminal justice system which emphasizes privacy.

Juvenile justice officials would not confirm if the boy was in custody due to privacy.

The San Francisco Public Defender's Office could not confirm their involvement in the case citing state law that restricts information about juvenile cases "to anyone other than relevant parties in the legal matter and prohibits dissemination to outside parties."

Lim sat down with San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins who couldn't go into specifics about the 12-year-old's case. However, elaborated on differences between adult and juvenile suspects linked to repeated crimes.

"With our youth, it's very different. We have to make a determination whether the youth to remain out of the home. It's a very different process in the juvenile system," said Jenkins.

Criminal defense attorney Anthony Brass has extensive experience with juvenile cases but is not affiliated with this stabbing incident. He says the issue of youths and criminal justice is challenging and the criminal justice system for juveniles needs to work.

"We're in a time of less accountability. We are popularizing crime. The culture shift, in the name of compassion is removing accountability and that is a dangerous road to walk," said Brass. "They are experiencing more mature behaviors earlier and it's really, I fear for them they don't have the emotional maturity to moderate themselves."

When I asked DA Jenkins about the frustration shared by Brass and a number of parents I spoke with, she acknowledged the need for change.

"Clearly, you're right. What's been going on isn't enough. It's not working. It's why we're in these situations. But there's more that we can do and I'm optimistic that if we come together in a way that's more innovation we'll get there. But there has to be a balance in a consequence even in my home with my kids... but understanding we need to exercise compassion to make sure our kids are maturing appropriately and properly," said Jenkins.

As the 15-year-old bus victim's family continues to grapple with what happened, they focus on recovery and ask for change to a juvenile justice system that is so clearly broken.

"There must be better solutions. From the ground up. As this could be anyone's child or family member."

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