S.C. officer fired: Why districts are rethinking cops as school disciplinarian

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Hillary Clinton: ‘No Excuse’ For Attack At Spring Valley High School.

This week, video footage of a police officer slamming a female student out of her chair and dragging her across a classroom in a South Carolina high school shocked the nation.

The viral video of a Richland County, South Carolina, sheriff’s deputy tackling a student at Spring Valley High School in Columbia has understandably outraged many people. Instead, it is part of a stream of systemic, excessive force by police officers committed against students of color in schools where they should be protected and nurtured. One of the girl’s classmates was also arrested for disturbing school and released on $1,000 bond simply because she burst into tears following the event, WLTX reported.

The incident is one more case in the ongoing debate about police tactics and brutality, with the central question of whether African-Americans are disproportionately targeted. Watching the video, my heart broke — not just for this particular student but for her classmates who witnessed it and for all the students shuttled through the school system until some offense lands them in handcuffs. The classmate, Niya Kenny, said that she was standing up for the girl who was attacked. “As a parent and as a father, I would be ripped ballistic if someone did that to my daughter. Dorothy Hines Datiri, assistant professor of multicultural education at the University of Kansas, is available to speak with media about school discipline, race, police in schools, the South Carolina case and disproportionate school discipline.

But however extreme the Columbia case may be, it is not unusual for school discipline to fall heavily on black students, either in South Carolina or nationwide. That’s pretty outrageous behavior,” he told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. “I mean that’s not appropriate behavior for any adult to treat a kid – my oldest daughter is a teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools. She said the incident — in which a 16-year-old girl was forcibly removed from class after refusing to leave — illustrates how black girls are penalized in ways that devalue their presence in school, and how school discipline contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline. “Educators should think about when the use of police intervention is necessary if students are not committing criminal offenses,” Hines Datiri said. “Schools have to consider more effective ways for supporting students in the classroom when disciplinary issues arise.” Hines Datiri has authored research on police intervention in schools, race, gender and discipline in educational settings and how discipline can lead to students dropping out of school. Students are affected by lost instruction time, poor educational outcomes and decreased employment opportunities, and families are shattered by more incarceration.

Her work has also focused on school discipline policy and she has worked with programs aiming to prevent students from dropping out and bring back those who have quit school. “Dropping out is a process. When videotaped arrests like these happen, people often complain: “Well, he could have done this in a different, nicer way.” It’s hard to disagree with that statement. Last year, in our report, “Unlocking Opportunity for African-American Girls,” it was noted that in the 2011-12 school year, 12% of all African-American female pre-K through 12 students were suspended from school, six times the rate of white girls and more than any other group of girls and several groups of boys — despite research showing that African-American children do not misbehave more frequently than their peers. The video “shows the dangers of increased police presence in schools … we are seeing this conflation between safety and discipline,” Janel George of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund told The Guardian.

The university’s mission is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world. And they simply have no business being there. “Zero-tolerance” policies, which criminalize minor infractions committed by students, grew out of the zero-tolerance policy that swept the nation in the early 1970s, part of President Richard Nixon’s “law and order” push. School districts like the Los Angeles Unified School District have led the way in reform by banning school suspensions for the “catch-all” category of “willful defiance.” Such discipline code modification to ensure clarity and uniformity is showing promise in reform circles. Just because an officer “could have been more polite” during an arrest is not conclusive proof that the arrest was unlawful, or that force was excessive.

Schools adopted their own version of the “broken windows” theory of policing, which emphasizes cracking down on small public offenses to deter more serious crimes. The Syracuse School District has adopted a new discipline code and established training for staff in alternatives to punitive discipline that are designed to keep students in school. According to Palmetto State law, “The governing body of each school district may provide corporal punishment for any pupil that it deems just and proper.” Unlike in some states, there’s no need to get parental permission first. (Corporal punishment delivered in loco parentis is also exempt from state law governing child abuse.) Nationwide, corporal punishment is doled out far more to black children than white ones or Hispanic ones. “Black children were nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to be corporally punished than White children, and nearly eight times more likely to be corporally punished than Hispanic children,” the Children’s Defense Fund calculated in 2014. Many districts are also implementing training on the role of implicit bias — unconscious beliefs that we all hold about persons based on characteristics like race or age — and its influence on discipline decisions.

Broken windows policing in the schools led to suspensions for infractions including talking back to teachers, truancy, horse play, uniform violations or other disobedient or uncooperative behavior. Additionally, pursuant to Richland County Schools’ Code of Conduct, if a student’s behavior materially or substantially disrupts the orderly operation, the student is committing a “Level 2″ offense, punishable by expulsion.

Studies find that a strong relationship between educators and students is the strongest indicator of school safety, not the presence of school police. If there is no racial bias in the administration of discipline, as school officials insist, why do children of color “act out” more in school than white children? Or do we look at the totality of the encounter, which included the events leading up to it, and the student’s apparent striking of the officer, albeit after he initiated contact. If you think there’s some legal obligation to make arrests as pleasant as possible, then criminal defense attorneys everywhere have some bad news to break to you: It just isn’t true. The reality is this: A “strong show of force, coupled with the threat to actually use it if necessary, is sometimes the safest way to ensure that a potentially volatile situation does not erupt into physical violence.” If you find that statement offensive, those aren’t my words.

During the many focus groups and community meetings I participated in, following the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, the overwhelming majority of the young people we spoke to in schools, juvenile justice detention centers and out in the community stated that police officers were aggressive and physical in dealing with minor offenses. But the fact remains that law enforcement officials in our schools do little but create a fearful and adversarial environment in what should be a safe place.

It terrifies some students, angers others and plainly communicates an adversarial relationship between students and authority that can only poison the learning environment. In 1994, Congress passed the Gun-Free Schools Act, which required states receiving federal education funding to pass laws 1) requiring an automatic one-year expulsion; and 2) prosecution in juvenile or criminal court of a student who brings a weapon to school. This, along with the availability of federal funds to support them heralded the emergence of the “school resource oficer,” or SRO — a deputized law enforcement officer stationed on campus. Starting with Columbine, school shootings, along with your garden variety gangs and firearms in school, have left us a little insecure over the last couple decades.

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