“The authorities in South Carolina are investigating an encounter captured on two videos that went viral Monday afternoon that show a white school police officer in a Columbia classroom grabbing an African-American student by the neck, flipping her backward as she sat at her desk, then dragging and throwing her across the floor….” –NY Times 10/27/15
First of all the entire idea and rational behind having the position of a “school resource officer”; is that this is a person who by emotional make up and specialized training is supposed to be the kind of officer who can lower the atmosphere for violence and confrontation in a school. Students of color are often subject to daily incidents of psychological, educational and/or physical acts of violence in public schools (sometimes from other students, and sometimes from the adults in the building). A large part of what is wrong with underperforming schools is the high number of Instruction interruption events that take place over the course of a day. These disruptions actually add up to weeks and months of lost instruction time; negatively affecting for what is in many cases students who are already struggling academically. In too many schools students must struggle through a violent environment; and then sometimes by accident, try to actually learn something. A large number of adult acts of violence go unreported; at least the way the incident factually took place. Tragically, schools can have their own professional “wall” of staff silence when it comes to holding adults responsible for bad behavior; especially when there are no non-staff witness present (“Who are you going to believe us professional adults, or this kid?”) A Further sad note is the adult physical and psychological mistreatment of students is easier to perpetrate in the K-8 setting, as opposed to high schools. Unfortunately, younger students are often unable to advocate for themselves (the reason the parents of these students should be ever alert as to what is going on with their child in school!) These acts also often go unrecorded and not publicized; however in this one incident it was:
I find this so hard to watch….
This felony assault on this student, is one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen in a school. It was good that the students in the class exhibited a calmness, by not putting themselves in danger of this clearly disturbed officer; and yet they knew they had to record it. Five things that are critical for me here:
(1) I believe that how this incident was handled is probably a reflection of how students of color are treated in other parts of that school’s operation (academic expectations, course assignments, counseling, discipline procedures, etc.) The question for me is, how can we get parents and communities of color to be equally appalled and upset by the psychological-educational violence that is inflicted daily on their children.
(2) A student sitting in her chair; even one who is refusing to leave the room; is not a physical thereat to hurt anyone; and so a physical forced removal has no place here (and particularly the type of force used in this situation.)
(3) In every school there is “some adult person” in the school building who can get a student to “calm-down” and comply with a directive from an adult. As the student was just sitting, the school had time to get that person to intervene in this situation.
(4) The “arrest” of the student is not only part of the standard officer exoneration plan; it also speaks to how students of color are viewed and treated in that school. Since I think that it is the rare situation when a confrontation of this nature occurs and race is not a factor. One is forced to think how this non-violent “refusal to move”; may have been handled if the officer saw the “refusing” student as a human being, someone who could be his child, as citizen worthy of respect, honor and protection.
(5) I hope the parents get a good lawyer (to inflict serious monetary damages on that school district); and that lawyer consult with a retired school administrator to buttress their case that this is not the way to handle this type of situation; in fact it was handled in the worst possible way. No, I am not shocked by this (latest) incident; but I am shocked and saddened, by the fact that I can no longer be shocked.