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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

School Violence

I know I will catch flack for this post, but this has to be aired.

Here is a story and video about High School kids in Pennsylvania getting tazered at a basketball game. It shows that kids and adults were gathered, yelling loudly at each other, and getting agitated. The police came into the situation and started tazering. There is one view that kids misbehaving, acting threateningly, and not obeying cops must be stopped. There is another view that is seldom heard. That view suggests that these kids live in a very stressful environment and use survival skills that include yelling and standing their ground. Their bravado (and perhaps weaponry - though no shots were fired here) is what they have to make their stand. Making your stand is a primal urge. That urge is not necessary when you have plenty of other means and avenues to make your stand. These kids do not.

The rhetoric that follows an episode like this is usually that cops deserve to be supported and they have to tazer rather than shoot these violent students. I would suggest that there is a clash of cultures and ego going on. The kids are yelling in the hallway. Yelling is a way of life in urban schools and neighborhoods. All part of standing your ground. I see it in schools all the time. Teachers often mimic it because they think the kids will respond. Check the black adult male in the cap who is yelling and trying to tower over the student to make him cower and obey. There is a whole lot of yelling done in urban schools. Check the white teacher/administrator adult figures who are trying to get the students to go into the gymnasium. Let's be orderly. Would you walk into an enclosed area where you don't know what is going on? Not in that chaos.

Enter the police who see their job as ending the chaos immediately, as if their mere presence will ratchet down the emotion, quell the confusion, and bring peace and harmony to the situation. Face it, when the cops come in it is to berate the public into submission using nightsticks, guns, tazers, gruff voices, intimidation and whatever else they have. Usually when they start arresting people it intimidates the crowd to comply. The ego of the police is part of their strategy. We WILL get you to comply or else. We have the means and the law on our side. Ok, that's their job, but at what price? Notice when they handcuff the kid in the gym, the cop keeps the tazer on him lest he squirm away. Appropriate tactic. But once the kid is subdued the cop goes after him with the tazer because he doesn't like the kid mouthing off. Ego. This is not necessarily a case of "bad cops." This is what police are expected to do and we put them into the Colosseum and say, now quiet that mob.

Students, meanwhile are certain that when the police and other adult supervisors get involved that they will be emasculated and stripped of any street cred power they think they carry. Consider that in their neighborhood, that bravado and street cred is what may keep them alive, safe, or at least less likely to be hassled. The cops come in with licesnse to hassle. The tension and dichotomy of the situation is fairly obvious. But we keep doing it over and over.

Answers to this situation?
1. let them fight it out and beat the crap out of each other. Call the paramedics when it's over.
2. bring in more police with more serious weapons and get everyone orderly even faster. Bring more police wagons for those arrested. Build more prisons to house them.
3. make everyone don a shock collar upon entering the venue. If anyone gets out of line it's "dance mailman" (if you get the Cheers show reference).
4. throw up our hands and say there is no answer and hope they all leave school soon.
5. get real serious about attending to the environment in which people live and connect the dots to behavior in schools. Stop yelling at kids as if that will intimidate them into doing their school work or to be quiet in the lunch line. Save yelling for the moment a student gets violent. Engage all violent students in behavior mod sessions - maybe with the police. Talking to each other may be one step in not only recognizing but respecting each other.

Yeah, I'm the bleeding heart that can't stop bleeding. But this notion that kids can and should be tazered has got to stop. We treat stray dogs better than this.


Anonymous said...

Agreed. I have never found that kids need to be yelled at, let alone tazered. I see so much yelling, making fun of, pushing, and shoving in schools that any student would be hard pressed to not be in survival mode.

May said...

GREAT post. I whole heartedly agree.

Sara said...

I agree too - the recent safety survey done in KCMSD proves this. I really don't think anything will change until people stop screaming at each other, shut their mouths, and listen. Do you think it will ever actually happen?