Criminalizing First-Graders

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

If you’re going to be six years old at some point in your life (and most of my readers have probably moved beyond that point) it is important to (a) carefully select where you choose to live and (b) behave. This is all brought to mind by a recent mailing from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describing a lawsuit it has filed on behalf of a 6-year old called J.W.

J.W. attends the Sarah T. Reed Elementary School in New Orleans, is four feet tall and weighs 60 pounds. He is not unfailingly polite. Indeed, on two occasions in May he was downright rude. On the first occasion he talked back to a teacher. Realizing that such activity could lead to a full-scale insurrection by 6-year olds if permitted to go unpunished, J.W. was arrested, handcuffed and shackled to a chair. (Nothing was stuffed in his mouth so he could, in theory at least, have continued talking back.) J.W. did not learn from this episode. In less than a week, he was involved in an argument with another 6-year old over who could sit in a given chair in the lunchroom. J.W. was on the losing side of that argument and was once again handcuffed and shackled to a chair.

The effect on J.W. has not been what school officials had hoped. Being trained educators they had been taught that using those techniques on six-year olds would not only help the 6-year olds see the errors of their ways but would eliminate the need for water boarding or other forms of discipline when the children were older. They were wrong. His parents say that he is now afraid of school, the police and teachers and is completely withdrawn. School officials explained that the arrest and restraints imposed were required under school rules. The educators may have help in changing the rules. The Southern Poverty Law Center, has filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the school principal and other officials had “provided a clear directive to all employees. . . that students were to be arrested and handcuffed if they failed to comply with school rules.” There’s no way of knowing how that suit will turn out but thanks to the behavior of a student and school officials in a school in Dade County, Florida, we may have a clue.

Isiah Allen got in trouble on October 20,2004. Isiah was six years old, three feet five inches tall and weighed fifty-three pounds. He allegedly behaved disruptively in class and was taken to the principal’s office for misbehaving. Instead of standing contritely he had a tantrum and consequently was locked in the principal’s office. While alone he smashed a picture frame. Upon hearing the glass break the adults re-entered the room and found Isiah standing motionless in a corner holding a piece of broken glass. When the police arrived he was still standing there. Unresponsive to the police officer’s ministrations it was finally decided the best way to handle the situation was to taser Isiah. He was, according to the complaint that was filed in the court case, tasered with 50,000 volts and handcuffed while vomiting. The taserers were sued and in due course the case got to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals that concluded that if the alleged facts were proved “the unlawfulness of the conduct was readily apparent to an official in the shoes of these officers.” (There is no report of what happened when the case went back to the trial court.) Our final example of how tough it is to be a six-year old is again brought to us courtesy of Florida. The child in this case, Haley Shalansky, was neither tasered nor shackled.

Haley was a 6-years old student at Parkway Elementary in Port St. Lucie, Florida weighing only 37 pounds. According to the sheriff’s officer Haley was asked to do something by her teacher, became upset and stormed out of the classroom. Her behavior was a ticket to the principal’s office where she had a tantrum and, according to the sheriff’s incident report: “kicked the wall, went over to the desk and threw the calculator, electric pencil sharpener, telephone, container of writing utensils and other objects across the desk.” She was handcuffed and taken away in a police car.

The next day she again had a tantrum in class but this time was taken away and committed to a mental health facility. The school says the parents have missed many scheduled meetings to discuss Haley’s behavioral problems. The lesson for the parents is obvious. If you miss enough meetings with school officials when summoned, your child may end up in a mental health facility.

Describing its reason for getting involved in J.W.’s case SPLC explains that: “All across the nation, schools have adopted draconian ‘zero-tolerance policies that treat children like criminals and turn schools into prison-like environments.” Based on the foregoing, it is hard to argue with that conclusion.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

 

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future