Shawnee Co. DA: Youth violence exposes flaws in reforms

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Shawnee County's top prosecutor says juvenile justice reforms have increased safety concerns, particularly in schools.

Shawnee Co. District Attorney Mike Kagay (Source: Shawnee Co. District Attorney's Office)

Mike Kagay released a statement Tuesday night, reacting to recent videos of youth violence posted on social media. One of those attacks led Kagay to file a charge of felony aggravated battery against a 12-year-old girl.

In his statement, Kagay discusses the Kansas Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2016, which took effect in 2017. Kagay said the reforms led to agreements, or Memorandums of Understanding, between school districts and law enforcement, calling for misdemeanors to be handled outside the criminal justice system.

"Pursuant to the MOU, if a student misbehaves, the school principal is the primary source of disciplinary consequences," Kagay said. "The result has been fewer referrals certainly, but also increased safety concerns."

Kagay says he did not sign the MOU.

"The MOU in question leaves it to the school principal to ultimately determine the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony, a decision that should be left to a trained and experienced prosecutor," Kagay said. "This has removed a significant deterrence to criminal conduct among our youth. Furthermore, it places an increased burden on our school employees to deal with this behavior on a daily basis, detracting from their primary roles as educators, and creates a potentially unsafe environment for school employees and students."

Kagay said people should report any criminal activity to their local law enforcement, whether they are the victim, witness, family member, friend, or concerned citizen.