FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Criminalizing First-Graders

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 His parents say that he is now afraid of school, the police and teachers and is completely withdrawn.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

?

 

More articles by:

December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail