Local News

Raleigh teen's case highlights problems in foster system, some say

Posted March 27, 2014

— A Raleigh teenager jailed for nearly three weeks after a fight on a school bus is free after pleading guilty Thursday to a charge of disorderly conduct.

Selina Garcia, who is in between foster families, was placed in adult jail after getting arrested March 7 when she repeatedly hit a student on a bus and threatened a teacher at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School.

She was sentenced Thursday to 20 days in jail, with credit for time served.

Some, however, say the 17-year-old should not have been in jail and that her case shines a light on problems with Wake County's foster care program and school system.

The girl could have been released from jail on the misdemeanor offense, but because she is under 18, she needed a parent or guardian to take responsibility for her.

Garcia's aunt, Melissa Garcia, had custody but had to give up her custodial rights several years ago.

She's upset because no one notified her, and she believes the foster care system is partly to blame.

"When I gave the state custody of her, it was under the impression that they would take better care of her than I could because they had the resources," Melissa Garcia said.

Assistant Wake County District Attorney Al Singer said parents of a child in the foster care system are usually notified if the child is in trouble or gets hurt.

He said he was not sure why Melissa Garcia wasn't notified. Privacy laws, he said, prevented him from saying more.

"Sixteen- and 17-year-olds don't belong in jail," Singer said. "There've been bills in the Legislature for years so that 16- and 17-year-olds are treated like juveniles in cases like this."

The youth advocacy group NC Heat blames the Wake County Public School System's disciplinary approach by allowing a school resource officer to arrest the Southeast Raleigh High senior in the first place.

"The problem is that the foster care system is broken, the school system is broken, and we need to end this school-to-prison pipeline," said Sanyu Gichie, a college student with NC Heat. "Kids need to be in school, not in jail."

The school system is the subject of a federal complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Justice challenging the school system's disciplinary policies, which it contends "unnecessarily and unlawfully punish and criminalize minor misbehaviors."

Christine Kushner, chairwoman of the Board of Education, said school leaders constantly review and revise the district's disciplinary policies and pointed out that out-of-school suspension rates are down.

Selina Garcia is now expected to go to either a group home in High Point or stay in the area with another foster family.

Her attorney told District Judge Ned Mangum Thursday that Selina Garcia has been in foster care since age 8 and that she wants to be an advocate for children in similar positions.

"I don’t want them leading down the same path," Garcia told Mangum. "I don’t want to see other kids in this situation. I’m ready to make a change."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Sallie Mae Mar 28, 2014
    user avatar

    Repeatedly hit another student.... REPEATEDLY!!!!!! Then proceed to threaten a teacher..... And she spends time in jail.... I don't see a problem with that.... If she had hit the student one time, and apologized because she lost her temper, then maybe something else should have been done.... But she carries on with several strikes then threatens a teacher???? No sympathy from me.... Learn you lesson girl, say you're sorry, get an education, and move on in your life in a more positive fashion.... Personally, I think someone is trying to garner support for a lawsuit w/a big payday ahead.... Hope it doesn't pan out that way....

  • A person Mar 28, 2014

    Really sick of trouble makers screaming that the world is not fair to them. If you want fair, then go to prison for your crimes. Now that would be fair

  • Hope Lives Mar 28, 2014
    user avatar

    Anyone who thinks that the government (county, state, federal or otherwise) can do something better is completely delusional. Especially when it comes to raising a child. This girl's aunt let her down. Her family has let her down. I feel badly for her and I hope she can make peace with her life and get it on the right track.

  • Grand Union Mar 28, 2014

    "There will always be hypocrites, but if this child was mine, first, she would know the difference between right and wrong, she would be disciplined for her bad behavior, and she would know what is expected from her."

    Perhaps, but she never had those advantages or was so messed up by the time she entered care that she couldn't take advantage of the chance foster should have given her. Child welfare are caught between stepping in too soon and removing children early and getting nothing but abuse for doing so, or waiting too long and irreparable damage is done to the child.

  • Brebabi Mar 28, 2014

    The aunt cares so much.. but signed over her rights? Surrreee....

  • LastSon1981 Mar 28, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I'm not saying she shouldn't be punished or that she's misunderstood. I'm just saying its easy to judge looking on. I put this child in the place as any other child. Kids growing up with love get arrested everyday and loving parents give the cops and jailers a hard time because their little darlings got arrested. No one was singing this story when the kid burned down the park or brought the bomb to school they was mistreated and we were supposed to feel sorry for them.

  • diverchick1041 Mar 28, 2014

    Her aunt was not notified because she signed over her rights......once rights are terminated the parent is not owed any type of explanation......

  • Do_not_tread_on_me07 Mar 28, 2014


    There will always be hypocrites, but if this child was mine, first, she would know the difference between right and wrong, she would be disciplined for her bad behavior, and she would know what is expected from her. If after all of that she still decided to beat a child and threaten a teacher, she better hope the police officer gets to her before I do, then she would be confronted by the utter disappointment by her mother. She would also understand that as her mother I love her unconditonally but bad behavior has consequences and she will be expected to accept the consequence regardless of what it is, learn something from it, and then apply it to her daily life. It is a parents JOB to hold their children accountable for their actions and if you don't want to do that, do not have children. It is irresponsible to bring a life into this world that you as a parent are unwilling to mold. There will always be bad people in this world, but parents can change that outlook.

  • Elem-Teach Mar 28, 2014


    20 years ago teachers and principals could handle it and parents wouldn't threaten to use, go to the media, or go to the central office and complain. Now that happens almost every time kids get in trouble. Parents don't want the school to discipline their child and parents just simply don't discipline anymore. For instance, I had a student bring a knife to school, threaten a student and the mom LAUGHED about it when called and complained about the suspension. She had not been bullied or anything else by the student and said so herself. Society as a whole seems to not want anyone else to discipline their children. It is sad what we have to go thru everyday and nothing teachers can do works! It starts at home!

  • LastSon1981 Mar 28, 2014

    A lot of hypocrites on this site. Trust me when its your kids no matter who they are or what they get arrested for you all think they deserve special treatment. The only difference is this child is not yours or mine.