Sunday, November 1, 2015

I guess we have to talk about cellphones again.

Actually, we need to talk about cops in school, euphemistically called School Resource Officers, as if they were a librarian or something.  This is a bit of a rant, in case you didn't realize.

This came across Facebook.
Sadly, there was a time when kids were taught to respect adults, in general. I work with some amazing teachers, but parents show open disrespect for teachers, so why should their kids be any different? todays parents are so over involved with their kid...
Total and utter bullshit.

"That time when kids were taught to respect their elders" and things were rosy and happy and nobody sassed an adult ... didn't exist except in the fevered dreams of people who think they weren't Royal Pains in the Ass themselves when they were teenagers.

"Back then" kids were just as disrespectful and just as stupid about it. The difference between then and now was that a teacher who made harsh and unreasonable demands could arbitrarily smack a kid - corporal punishment was pretty common - and there was nothing the kid could do. The teacher could be totally and completely wrong and all of society would just fall in line. After the teacher got done slapping or spanking, the parents would probably deal out more punishment when the kid got home, "No Respect for Authority."

After the Tinker decision and other lawsuits, schools began to realize that they didn't have complete and total control of their students and never did, that "students' rights didn't stop at the schoolhouse door", that the Constitution and (in the case under discussion here) specifically, the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments weren't just for adults.

Kids are citizens, too, and have all of those pesky constitutional rights. Smacking them around for looking at a text (the modern day equivalent of passing a note) is ridiculous. Expecting them to hand over a phone to a teacher who will search through it or not give it back until some unknown time ... is likewise unreasonable if you only do it to one student and only when you catch her and only if you're in a bad mood because your day wasn't going well. If you want to apply discipline, you have to be fair and equitable.

Teachers who do something creative, like having the students line up their phones on the "chalktray", have a much better record because it's done to everyone and becomes a habit. Kids can deal with that.

What they hate is the "I'm annoyed, therefore you are wrong and I'm taking your phone because reasons and if you question my AUTHORITAH, I will have you arrested."

Why does the teacher need to make this an issue? All accounts say the teacher asked her to put away the cellphone but she didn't do it fast enough (emphasis mine). How does this justify a harsh takedown by a cop, public arrest, jail and fines? Any teacher/admin/cop/adult who escalates this to the level in that video really needs to take a few psych courses, and do some serious introspective work ... is that student really threatening you that much? Is the student use of a cellphone anywhere near the disruption that the policeman caused?

Nowadays, schools try to slide past the Constitution by using weasel words and police phrasing and lingo to attempt to do this crap. We changed from "Inappropriate Language or Behavior" to "Assault", "Bullying" or "Harassment" ... or my favorite response to one boy shoving another at a locker, "ASSAULT and BATTERY, Third Degree."

The kid who recorded the incident was also arrested ... for "Causing a Distraction."
WTF, people?
Then, there's the kid who recorded the video on her cellphone: she was also arrested ... for "Causing a Distraction." So a cop in the room who takes a girl forcibly from her chair and throws her against a wall and handcuffs her -- that's not a distraction but a second kid with a phone is? I can assure you that my difficulty keeping the class on task would have a lot more to do with the cop than anything else.

We see this all the time as schools struggle to pretend they're Gods of All They Survey. A girl wears spandex leggings and the administrator calls it "a Safety Issue." It's not.

A kid wears a hat and we call it "Disrepect" and if the kid doesn't take it off instantly it becomes "Refusal To Follow Orders" or "Insubordination" or "Disruption". It's not.

A kid gives an Advil to another kid because of PMS, we call it "Illegal Drug Distribution" or invoke some "No Tolerance Drug Policy" as if that applied here. It doesn't.

South Carolina even has a law against disrupting school, a law that carries a punishment of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.  "Disruption" used to be shooting spitballs and the punishment was a detention. Now it's a major criminal offense if you want to push it that far.

Police need to use specific, precise language that has been scrubbed of as much bias and humanity as possible because they are dealing with adults and a criminal justice system. If the police get involved, there are serious consequences if guilt is proven.

When the situation calls for jail time or extensive fines, we absolutely must call the police. This is not something untrained school personnel can handle. Anything you say can be used against you in court; you have the right to an attorney; you have the right to remain silent. The policemen can use DEADLY force if public safety is at stake.

The "School Resource Officer" is still a cop. Every interaction with a student is written up, recorded and reported. He is not a friend and he cannot ignore things.

The other 99.9% of the time, school discipline is not at that point and the cops should not be involved. Schools need to get out of the policeman's mindset, to remove that language from our speech and discipline policies.

We are not cops; we are dealing with children, actually and legally.

Passing notes in class, while rude and should be dealt with by school officials, is NOT a criminal offense. Cops should not be involved.

I don't want kids handing out Advil  - there are medical reasons. So I send them to the office/nurse to get some for free (where the nurse can say "That's enough for today" or "Is there something I need to know about that bruising all over your body? Know that I am required by law to call the state abuse hotline.") This kid in this case is nothing for a policeman to deal with. The abuser, yes.

"If all you've got is a cop ... everyone looks like a criminal" isn't quite accurate, really. He's required to treat every interaction as a possible criminal case; he has no choice. He is a policeman and he must follow rules.

"If a major incident occurs that needs the US Justice System, we'll call the cops"
"The SRO is there to deal with major incidents."

But that has become
"We pay him $90,000 dollars a year and he's not doing anything else right now,
so we'll send him to do this task we don't feel like doing."

and in some cases:
"The kid won't listen to us. SRO, you take care of it."

And that's how passing notes becomes a criminal offense. That's how refusing to hand over a phone can lead to forcible takedown, arrest, and jail time.

School administrations have increasingly becoming a cadre of self-important fools who have never taught a day in their lives and who have no idea what they're doing. 

A Professional relationship or a personal one?
Has the administration abdicated its responsibility to teach behavior and self-discipline to a policeman who must follow completely different and far stricter rules of interpersonal contact? I think so.

Here's a thought: If your SRO is expected to be a friendly guy, messing with kids and always has a smile ... do the kids know he is really a cop? Is the disrespect some claim as a reason for the arrest partly because kids have been calling him by his first name all this time?  Does he have a professional relationship with the students or a personal one?

A final point. Some reports claim the girl was recently orphaned. This is not true, but she was in foster care ... still a traumatic and depressing situation for a girl whose mother and grandmother are still alive. Think about what kind of home life that girl has lived. It doesn't excuse, but it does explain.

Thanks for reading. I've got to get back to work.

Anyone who wants to claim that the cop is there to protect the students from a "Bad Guy With a Gun", please just shut the fuck up and crawl back into your hole ... you have no idea what you're talking about.

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