Black teen accused of stealing 65-cent carton of milk to stand trial in November

A trial date has been set for a Virginia teen accused in May of stealing a 65-cent carton of milk during lunch at his middle school.

Ryan Turk and his family argue that Ryan, a recipient of free lunches, was just retrieving the milk he forgot to grab when he first went through the lunch line in the cafeteria of Graham Park Middle School in Dumfries, Virginia. The Washington Post reported that he has been charged with disorderly conduct and petit larceny in the May 10 incident.

Police at the time said that the 14-year-old became disorderly when a school resource officer, who spotted him cutting in the line and grabbing the milk, ordered him to go to the principal's office. Ryan admitted at the time that he pulled away from the officer when he was grabbed.

“I yanked away from him. I told him to get off of me because he’s not my dad,” Ryan said.

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Police said Ryan was charged with larceny for trying to "conceal" the carton of milk, a charge the teen disputes. The Post reported that Ryan's mother, Shamise Turk, a school district employee, said surveillance footage from a camera in the cafeteria shows he did not hide the carton.

Ryan was offered a nonjudicial punishment, but turned it down, according to the newspaper. Subsequently, a Prince William County judge last week set a November trial date for the teen.

He will go to trial days after his 15th birthday.

Social media users expressed anger that the teen faces charges over a carton of milk.

Ryan and his family said that they opted to go to trial to prove his innocence. They said they believe he was targeted by the officer because he is black, and Ryan told the Post that other students did the same thing he did that day.

"It's just unfair," Ryan said. "Other people did that. One boy, I told him to get one for me before. But when I do, I get in trouble."

The school district, in response to the allegations of racism, pointed out that both the SRO and the school’s principal are also black.

The family’s lawyer, Emmett Robinson, said the officials’ race does not automatically mean racism was not at play in the incident.

"It's not the players, it's not the people who discriminate; it's the whole system," Robinson told the Post.

He said the teen’s arrest was an example of institutional racism.

“No one needs to be punished for stealing a 65-cent carton of milk,” Robinson said. “This officer treats kids like they’re criminals, and guess what happens — they’re going to become criminals.”