The conversation among “professionals” who should know better

The subject: Media attention about a young Black 16-year-old female being body slammed out of her seat in a classroom (October 2015).

10/31/15 response (original): Male #1

Is it me, or do I just not get it?  I am having trouble fully understanding the developments following the incident wherein the young high school girl was dragged from her chair and thrown across the room.

Let’s review the circumstances shall we?  First there came the report on all major news channels of a young Black girl being roughly handled by a Student Resource Officer (SRO), which resulted in her being wrestled from her chair, dragged or slung across a room (dependent upon your perspective of the takedown technique), and forcibly handcuffed.  This activity was done in full view of the teacher, an administrator, and ostensibly, the school’s principal. If your viewing experience was anywhere close to mine, the scene was looped at least 12 times while the newscasters discussed the horror of it and/or the outlandishness of it. In fact, the newscasters almost to the individual demanded to know why or how such a thing could happen.

What seems to be missing, in my opinion, is an objective look at how this interaction could have happened and what might be changed to prevent it from happening again if that is the desired outcome.  I take this stance because there appear to be some roles, rules, and obligations that have either been misunderstood or misplaced by those reporting the incident.

To begin with, the video clearly shows that there was a student who was disrupting a classroom full of other students whom presumably wanted to learn the lesson for the day.  Said disruptive student was, approached by a duly sworn officer of the law by direction of credible school authorities.  This officer, in the lawful performance of his duties did ask the student to cease and desist and accompany him out of the classroom.  Our student is heard on more than one occasion refusing the officer’s instructions.  (It should be noted here that once the officer instructed the student to come with him, that student was under arrest— control of said officer and there was no longer room for negotiation or arbitration.)

Next, the officer placed his hands on the student to remove her from the desk and the student struck back and fought to stay seated. (At this point, it is my belief–although I am not a lawyer nor an officer of the court–that said student was in full resistance to an arrest.  Also, the student’s struggle, while no apparent threat to the officer, was definitely a vigorous refusal to comply. Such refusal was met with increased asserting of force to gain compliance by the officer. (The force used by the officer was viewed by his superiors and determined to be excessive and resulted in the officer being terminated from employment.

The aftermath of this episode was replete with accusations that the SRO was out of line, the student’s teachers should have maintained control of the situation, and that school misused the SRO by requesting him to remove the student.  However, if we look more closely at that situation, we will see that the teacher clearly had a student who was not complying with requests to cease her disruptive behavior. Further, the presence of a school administrator suggests that all of the teacher’s efforts and options were unsuccessful and exhausted.  So, if the teacher had tried to physically remove the student or stop her disruptive behavior, the student would then be in a position to sue the teacher and would probably win that action. Hence, the resort to the SRO.

Finally, the student has now complained of pain in her arm or shoulder and headaches.  These claims seem to be the preamble for claims for monetary compensation due to extensive injuries.  It is at this juncture we hear from the now distraught parents of the poor, abused, faultless prodigy.  What we have not heard, nor probably will ever hear is why the parents would tolerate her child acting out in school to that degree under any circumstance.  Absent also is the hue and cry for lack of authority high school teachers have over their students so that those teacher might be able to better control their classes.  We, in my opinion, are seeing the results of years of stripping teachers from the ability to confront and react to students and placing that authority outside academia. As a note, we must remember, just because high school students are not fully grown does not mean that they are stupid.  They know full well that teachers have no power over them so those students do not respect nor fear consequences from the teachers.  As a result, the students feel free to act any way they please. And they do.  Just a thought.

10/31/15 response: Male #3

Having dealt with surly students for many years at (west coast schools), I can say with some authority, this officer was waaay out of line. You don’t snatch a 16-year-old kid by the neck, slam her to the ground and toss her across the room. This is absolutely ridiculous. Teens especially are obnoxious. You would love to do this every day. But you have to use common sense. This was all over a cell phone, which she was using but not to the extent that the entire class was listening to her conversation. She just refused to put it down, as most of them do. But you don’t need to act like they’re criminals when you’re dealing with INAPPROPRIATE behavior and not ILLEGAL behavior. Would you like it if (your daughter) were treated this way? I think not. What they should have done was call her father or mother. If she didn’t behave, they should have told her at the end of the day, she cannot return to school unless she is accompanied by a parent. That’s it. But there’s always a much hasher reaction to black kids than white kids even if they do the same thing. All kids can be annoying. It’s just that when our’s (sic) are, they are automatically criminalized or slaughtered. When white kids are defiant, they are “speaking their minds,” “standing up to (unwarranted) authority,” “showing spunk,” and all that b.s. When Black kids do it, they’re “breaking the law,” “endangering others,” etc. This has nothing to do with reporting the incident but everything to do with America’s double standard when policing people of color. They HATE us for resisting any kind of rules, good or bad. Remember Jim Crow?

11/1/15 response (to male #1): Carol

Okay, I accept that as your opinion. But I have seen the texts of other students [who] were in the classroom that day who said she [the student] was quiet and not disruptive, but the teacher became annoyed when she pulled out her phone and when he demanded she give it to him she refused.

You asked about her parents, and further information shows that both her grandmother and mother died a few months apart and earlier this year and she had been put into foster care. So she had a lot of grief that was too much for her to handle already; the teacher should have known that.

The shock, trauma, dislocation, grief of her situation is mind boggling for an adult, more so for a teenager who is suddenly without a base, a connection to family.

Having had my brief stint teaching 7th graders, I know how frustrating they can be, and we had our own seven to frustrate us through their teen years as well. But given that, I see no reason a weight lifting body builder (I saw the pictures) has to resort to manhandling a child, anybody’s child. As frustrating as my own kids could be at any given time, that would have even pushed me over the edge as a parent.

This kid probably sees herself as alone in this fog of a school system and thinking as a kid does, that if she’s not loud or disruptive she’s not causing any problems, she would be resistive to being put out of class. In her mind (possibly) another rejection and loss when she (probably) didn’t think she was doing anything wrong.

One news source said her arm was broken, under what law is it okay to abuse a child? If it was my child and I swooped into the classroom and did that to my own child media would throw everything it has into villianizing me as a parent. So why is it okay for a grown assed man to do that to a child half his size and weight? What goes through a man’s mind that this is the way to handle a female? If your daughter’s boyfriend did that to your daughter because he said she was disrespecting him, would you approve and support him, or kick his ass for hitting a female?

And I can tell you for sure that your instincts kick in when someone is attacking you and you will strike out. But somehow we’ve made it against the law to try to protect one’s self from harm when being attacked, especially by law enforcement.

When you see someone getting ready to punch you in the face and your arms come up automatically to protect your face, it’s now a criminal act. But show me any man, woman, or child who will keep their arms pinned against their sides and ALLOW themselves to be struck. Any takers? But we’ve outlawed reflexive bodily actions, too.

It is clearly evident that the Black-white issue is part of this scenario so let’s deal with that. Picture the pretty petite blonde in that chair and tell me that without a doubt she would have been manhandled the same way and I will call you a liar. I know that had it been a white kid he would had tilted that chair backwards and drug the chair with blondie in it out into the hallway.

Why is it okay for an adult seeing that to say it’s an appropriate action for an adult-to-child intervention is beyond me. Why the increased violence against men, women and children of color (remember the officer sitting on that tiny Black girl at the pool party?) is viewed as a “they should have obeyed the law” mentality hurts me to the core. Didn’t the Jews quietly obey the Nazi soldiers and did as they were told? And what was the result of that? The Nazis stopped abusing them? So we know from history that that’s not the answer to brutality against another group of people either.

I know kids can be mean, violent, disruptive, loud mouthed, all that, but when we, as a nation, decide that violence towards them is appropriate and welcomed we have definitely lost our humanity. We are admitting that adult minds cannot find a peaceful solution to a problem that has been with us for all the generations it’s been since laws were made to prevent parents from disciplining their own children, and preventing schools from being able to discipline them short of incarceration. And if you can’t see this same scenario used on other faces, or in other situations, something is wrong with that picture.

You need to rethink this, (male #1)

11/1/15 response (to male #1): Male #4

Amen

11/1/15 response: Carol

(Male #3), I’m including your response to me (and male #1) to this general conversation because I think the discussion is necessary to others’ points of view, and I welcome those viewpoints. We NEED discussions like this.

After my response to (male #1), I read the following article in The New Yorker, and learned even more, that in Alabama disruption of a classroom is cause for a fine and INCARCERATION!  Imagine that!  I wonder how many white kids have been incarcerated in that state versus how many of them are just not reported, or the kid’s disruption classified as something else to keep them from going to jail.  Now the girl who was horrified by what she was witnessing has a record of arrest as well as being suspended.

And the sheriff, well he did say that what Fields (who already had a bad reputation) did was wrong, but he even clarified what he meant by that when he said that only when Fields threw the girl across the room was he “crossed the line.”  The choke hold attempt and snatching her was okay, though. And, again, the students supported the fact that it was only the teacher who was annoyed that the student wouldn’t turn over her phone that started this whole mess. If this is the way we handle inappropriate behavior, as (male #3) said, how do we handle it when a kid gets into a fight?  All disruptions are equal in the state of Alabama, and that speaks to how intolerant and ignorant the adults are who made those laws.

(male #3) is so right.  As I also said, kids, especially at the teenage level, have so much to learn about how to behave, and you can’t tie everyone’s hands to lessen the penalties and only leave incarceration as the only option, but they did and you know who that impacts more than any others.

To have a world of adults signifying that she got what she deserved, but only one peer standing up for her (and herself punished for it) says a lot for this country and how they view females, females of color, and people of color in general; there is no way around that viewpoint. Again, by example, we are telling females they have no worth, so how are you going to tell the Good Ol’ Boy On the Corner that he can’t beat the sh*t out of his girlfriend? Are you just going to say that this publicized beating of a girl on a video that went worldwide, is the exception?

In addition to (male #3) response below this, please read: http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/what-niya-kenny-saw

11/1/15 response (originally generated discussion): Male #1

Carol:

You and (male #3) take very similar stances regarding the wrongness or disproportionate use of force on a young Black girl.  Your points find some support in the fact that the Student Resource Officer (SRO) was fired by the Sheriff after a brief investigation.  The firing was based on the SRO’s failure to follow established procedures during his encounter with the student.

I would, however, entreat you both to another vantage in that the entire situation was ripe for confrontation from the beginning.  Whatever the confrontation was to be, the outcome was inevitably going to be bad.  To begin with, the student failed to follow direct instructions from the teacher (who’s race is unknown) and the administrator (who is Black) by not handing over the cell phone.  All other descriptions of the incident are merely incidental at this point because the situation then shifted from a student-teacher disconnect to a power struggle between a student and the institution.  Whoever called the SRO into the scenario is up for questioning, but the result was the introduction of a law enforcement representative into a power confrontation.  Having dealt with policing and law enforcement organizations in a supportive role for most of my adult life, I can tell you without equivocation that when such an individual or individuals enter into a highly charged situation as presented here, they are focused on containing the issue and removing the discord.  This is not a stance of negotiation or discussion.  It is strictly a force-on-force situation and the law enforcement individuals are trained to win.

To the bigger issues I would pose the following:

  1. When school systems choose to utilize law enforcement personnel to maintain order in the classrooms because current laws prevent teachers from doing it, all interactions between students and SRO-type personnel will become criminal or near-criminal instances. It then should force us as a society to decide whether this model is the type of learning tool we wish to employ.
  1. All students (especially African American students) should be TAUGHT that there is no negotiating with police personnel engaged in enforcing the law. It is a power situation and the police are trained, authorized, and determined to win.
  1. Students need to understand that in the real world (one they are ostensibly preparing to enter as active, capable participants) there are power relationships that exist and those power sources do not give way to student petulence, tragic home life situations, or false impressions of their rights in the larger scheme of things.  It is, in my opinion, a catastrophic failure occurred on the part of the teaching staff at the school where this incident happened that enabled the students to presume that continued resistance to authority would amount to continued tolerance with no consequences.

By the way, I reject the entire notion that the student was not disruptive because the administrator and the teacher were both present before the SRO appeared on the scene.  It is established that both had attempted to get the cell phone from the student to no avail, which resulted in the escalation to the point of violence.

11/1/15 response: Male #2

Hey Y’all

We all have seen the video clips and have read varying accounts of what led to the removal of this young lady from the class. The starting point of any of our knowledge of any of the facts is the portion of the video that was shown, and from the point they chose to make public. We have no way of knowing if that was the entire episode, or what happened to or after the portion shown. Nor do we know this child’s background, again, other than what was published. And while the natural knee-jerk reaction is to pity this “poor child” and demonize the RSO, I find it interesting that those who do know the whole story; her classmates, staged a walk-out in support of the Officer and denouncing his removal. It is noted that those classmates were multi-racial, male and female. Click on the link below for the story.

I agree with (male #1) in that we must keep in focus the purpose of organized education and the duty owed to all of the students who are there presumptively to be educated. Nowhere in any of the articles I have read is there any mention or acknowledgement of the rights of the other students to realize their expectation of an environment conducive to their education. Nor is there any such mention or acknowledgment of the obligation of the school, the teachers, the principal and others to ensure that the mentioned conducive environment is maintained for the benefit of those law-abiding students.

It is not by happenstance that our schools now, in too many cases, are like fortresses, with police officers positioned on the premises, and officers on hand as in this case, to take over when school officials exhaust their ability to deal with students. Teaching has become, unfortunately, a hazardous profession, due in great part to our misguided youth who feel that they do not have to comply with rules, regulations, orders or anything that they don’t agree with. Teachers are being physically attacked by students, as the second link will bear out.  I am sure that most of you have seen or have knowledge of other such incidents.

My guess is that this did not start with this young lady at this point, but rather that she has no doubt been accustomed to having it “her way”. After having been asked by two officials, and her refusal to comply left no other choice other than to bring in the RSO. Had she been allowed to get away with her aberrant misbehavior, it is predictable that the other students witnessing that, or some of them would have believed that they could get away with the same in the future, and the authority of the school’s officials will have been irreparable damaged. What I see here is learned and tolerated behavior which, as stated, did not start at this point, but more likely than not was a way of life for this young lady. As to whether the officer’s conduct was “over the top”, that is the province of those who employed him, and their decision I do not question. In view of the students’ support of the officer, however, it is clear that they, knowing all of the facts, come down on the

side of the officer.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/south-carolina-students-stage-walkout-to-support-fired-deputy/

http://ietv.co/1LCBix9

Be Blessed

11/2/15 response: Male #1

Thanks (male #4).  This just confirms the old saying that the first reports of an incident is usually not fully accurate.  The tragedy, however, is that most people don’t get the correction and proceed on the basis of the inaccurate data.

11/2/15 response: Male #3

You (male #1) and (male #4) miss the point. The girl is not responsible for stories that emerged from this incident. I find it appalling that because rampant media makes false reporting seems to justify a 16-year-old girl being man-handled by a weight-lifting officer. You cannot under any circumstances justify this. I have been in classrooms. I have seen a lot worse. You CANNOT justify this. Period! A cell phone??? Give me a break. I’ve spent 15 years in(west coast) classrooms — high school and middle school. You have no idea how awful some behavior occurs.

Nonetheless, these children — who by the way are still CHILDREN — are crushed by their terrible dysfunctional families and don’t even know they’re crushed. This is what I find appalling. Most of them, like all children, have no idea there are other means of responding from the way they choose. Kids react in kind from what they’ve learned from their environment. They have no control of their environment.

And you are really blessed if someone in your young life comes along to show you there really is another way. That is rare!

You guys act like she’s a calculating adult. She’s a KID for God’s sake! Having raised kids (and half the neighborhood) I know they can drive you crazy. They often do things you absolutely hate. But that does not mean you should beat and abuse them for defiance. It doesn’t work like that. You don’t criminalize them for annoyance or making mistakes. I ask you: Is it more important to crush juveniles than to have compassion for them? Really??

love you man,

11/2/15 response: Male #1

(Male #3),

I shared the background of my friends, who are also part of my church family in (my city), because they demonstrate the type of thinking that will be applied to decipher the wrongs and rights of the subject situation.  One of the major points that will be discussed as this issue is arbitrated is that once the SRO became involved with the student, the situation transferred from being an academic issue to a law enforcement moment.  To that end, no scholastic rationale will be applied.  The facts will be examined, the actions will be reviewed, and a legal decision will be rendered.  Whether it was “over the top” action on the part of the SRO will only be an influencer of the degree of punishment rendered to the student who disrupted the classroom and caused this situation to occur.  Just a thought.

11/2/15 response: Male #3

I’m not impressed with their credentials. I’m impressed if they have God-given sense. Ben Carson is a great example of high intelligence and utter nonsense. I have more experience in the classroom than any of those guys. I’d be body-slamming all day from what I’ve been through. A cell phone ain’t really that big of a deal. Trust me.

love you man,

11/2 response: Male #1

All:

I wanted to give you guys some background information on some of the people responding to our most recent string of emails. Two of the respondents are Bill and (male #2). Bill is an attorney working for the (government). (Male #2) is an attorney who is in private practice and who is licensed to argue before the United States Supreme Court (and he has done so on a few occasions). I share this with you so that you can appreciate that the responses they provided are not capricious nor arbitrary. They both tend to apply cogent and deliberate thought to their responses in addition to researching multiple vantage points before responding.

Just thought that might assist you in gaging the merit of their rejoinders.

11/3/15 response: Carol

What I see clearly from your responses is that the experiences of (male #3) and I, both dealing with young people for a long period of time, were dismissed almost as if insignificant. When you said, “… when such an individual or individuals enter into a highly charged situation as presented here, they are focused on containing the issue and removing the discord.  This is not a stance of negotiation or discussion.  It is strictly a force-on-force situation and the law enforcement individuals are trained to win,” I cringed.  Literally, cringed.  Fully charged?  Was then when the man entered the room and pushed all the other desks away from hers in order to attack her?

It reads as though the police are equated with the military and the humanity is removed from a situation dealing with a child.  You are still looking at this through a military lens where force outweighs empathy, humanity, and a need to understand children’s nature.  In no way would I have supported this either in my 7th grade classroom, nor with my children.  And I can tell you for a fact that I have left work early and confronted teachers who thought it was okay to abuse my child (one was no longer teaching there the next semester).  No, my kids weren’t disruptive like this, but what does the degree of disruption matter?  I see a child being attacked by a man.  A girl by a man twice her size.  A Black female by a white male.  How any parent, especially those of color and fathers, can look at that and think it was okay at any level, I just cannot fathom.  And this level (the cell phone) was petty at best.

Again, you said something else similar with, “All students (especially African American students) should be TAUGHT that there is no negotiating with police personnel engaged in enforcing the law. It is a power situation and the police are trained, authorized, and determined to win.”  Some teachers have absolutely no patience and should not be in that professionPERIOD  Prior to the police in the classroom there was a long period of years when teachers had taken it upon themselves to medicate students that they decided were unruly.  Prior to that, the teachers were forcing parents to medicate their kids if they could not sit still for 50-minutes an hour.  Unless a student is fighting another student, or threatening (I mean actually threatening, not imagined threat) the teacher, police do not need to be in the classroom.

You fall back on the fact that the teacher wasn’t able to get the cell phone from the student without knowing what the policy of the school is towards students having cell phones. But most of all, you of all people, support a lightweight female being physically abused by a male body building weight lifter, makes me physically ill.  In what world did you grow up in where that was acceptable?  Did you purposefully not address my question about substituting (your daughters) into that scenario and still thinking it was acceptable?

You and (male #2) (who I do not know), and I guess your church family as well, all impose a military-like view of what schools are, or should be, totally obedient children, obeying adults without any pushback.  Where do either of you live?  Do you personally know any teenagers?  (male #2) called the girl’s refusal to hand over a phone “aberrant misbehavior,” which means abnormal, unusual, deviant.  There was nothing “aberrant” about her behavior, it, like (male #3) said, is typical teenage behavior.  The kind of behavior that should result in a note from the teacher to the (foster) parent for a meeting, or after school detention.  In no way does it warrant a grown-assed man physically attacking a female.

That you both seem to feel that the behavior of that man towards that child was okay, or necessary, or warranted, makes me want to weep. (Male #2) doesn’t feel the violence perpetrated on that child need be questioned.  So now, between the two of you so far, you’ve got me cringing, being physically ill, and now weeping.

You have daughters, but you find this appropriate.  You think in a “remove the threat” mentality when there was no threat.  Misbehavior, yes, danger, threat, violence, no.  And (male #2) even thought that the fact that some (multi-cultural) students protested in support of that vile man you approve of is evidence of no wrongdoing here.  Disregarded was the fact that there were several tweets from students INSIDE THE CLASSROOM at the time of the event, who felt the man (Officer Slam) was out of his frickin’ mind.  They also said that the girl wasn’t mouthing off, or being loud, just not giving up her phone.  The after-the-fact protest was media intent, I’ll bet.

Your responses make me think of Ben Carson calling Obama’s healthcare policy (so that ALL people can have healthcare) as something to be compared with Hitler or the Nazis.  It’s like some people are convinced that whenever humanity is involved, it should be supported by resistance and responding with violence as appropriate.  Who are you?  [Removed personalized statement]

We have a society that is inundated with stimuli constantly.  Everything is done in sound bites, news, weather, announcements, instructions.  Then you pull the student out of their environment and tell them, no DEMAND that they sit still quietly for 50 minutes or be penalized.  I can tell you for another fact that in my graduate school classes (as a teacher and as a student) students didn’t sit still, they played with their phones, did other classwork, and even played on the internet in their classes.  But somehow we expect a child to sit still and not make a sound, and be talked AT for 50 minutes at a time.  Sometimes they are not even allowed to ask questions (I monitored a school for the SDUSD where that happened), but when they push back, GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL, do not pass GO.

I can only assume by your nonchalant response to this girl being abused that you also agree with the Black men being shot and killed at an exorbitant rate that you feel they deserved what they got too, because they did not quietly obey, without question, what they were being told.  Overlooking, of course, all those cases where they were killed even when they obeyed.  Or even in those cases where physical reaction to protecting themselves was deemed by whites as resisting.  Again I ask, who stands silently and allows themselves to be hit, tased, or maced?  Even the ones where the Black men responded politely with “yes, sir,” but still questioned while they were being singled out as they video taped the whole incident, are within their rights.  Are you no longer able to see that not responding physically to being attacked is impossible to expect, yet the laws support it?  Have we really devolved into a obey-or-be-shot society, for man, woman, or child?  And your CHURCH members are down with this (shuddering to picture this).

What I can’t overlook, no matter how hard I try, is that what we all see, the whole world, is that a young Black female was abused in a public way and you sit back and say, in a manner of speaking, she deserved what she got. When I saw the Black man, some other kid’s father, make a three-minute protest in a meeting with administrators about this incident he stated he was standing in place for that girl’s father, I could have hugged him if I could have.  THAT is what a Black man does to protect his children.  When a Black man thinks a white man (publicly or privately) violating a Black girl is okay, approved, warranted, then we have totally lost our culture.

We, as a culture, are already in a precarious state never having fully healed and recovered as a society from the slave era (beginning generations before, but only ending most dramatically in the 60s when you were a kid). Now, with Black fathers like you approving how white men deal with our people, children included, which sends a message all across the world, means that all hope is lost.  The so-called Lynch laws have served their purpose.  When the men are not there to defend the women and children there is no hope until the women, once again, take the leadership and bring some type of dignity back to the culture.

This is shameful on so many levels, and I’m done with this conversation

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