What were they thinking? by Amanda S. Green
All too often, I find myself asking just that, especially when it comes to our public school system. No, this isn’t a post condemning public schools and recommending homeschooling. Although, to be honest, I am quickly going in that direction. This is a post about consequences and the need to finally start applying them to school districts and their security forces instead of granting a free pass.
I’ll be one of the first to admit that Dallas ISD has had its problems over the years. There was a time not so long ago when it seemed like there was a revolving door in the superintendent’s office. Then there are the issues so many major cities with a large school district face, issues too many to list in this post. However, there is one premise every parents operates under when she sends her child to school. We expect that child to be kept safe. The last thing we expect is for district employees and contractors to harm our child.
In the past week, two incidents have come to light that must raise questions about not only the training of ISD employees, especially the district police, and the way in which it communicates with the parents of students attending DISD.
The first, on the surface, doesn’t look that different from a lot of situations that arise. A couple of tween/teen girls got into a fight after school and the campus cop stepped in to stop them. So far so good, right? After all, he’s there to keep the peace and make sure no one gets hurt. The problem is that a video, admittedly a poor quality video, shows him picking up a 12-year-old girl and body slamming her to the ground. The girl and her family claim he then pepper sprayed her. The girl suffered a broken clavicle and, duh, had to go to the hospital. Oh, and she was suspended three days for fighting.
As I said, the video is grainy but you can make out the campus cop grabbing the girl and slamming her to the ground. He then makes a move that may or may not confirm the family’s allegations that he pepper sprayed her. That will, in all likelihood, be left to the district and possibly to the courts to determine.
Oh, and the district? It has admitted that “his actions [the officer] do not appear to represent the type of response we want our officers to display.”
In the meantime, the officer has been placed on administrative leave. What is truly disturbing, if true, is the family’s allegation that students who videotaped the encounter were told by the school to delete the videos. CYA or misinformation? I don’t know but, for the moment at least, I can believe someone (with or without approval of the administration) telling them to do just that. If true, it is another chilling indicator that our schools are no longer safe for our children — not only are they punished for protecting themselves but now they are at risk of injury from overzealous employees.
Where is the accountability? I hope DISD makes its investigation into what happened transparent to the public. If not, then perhaps it is time for the superintendent’s office door to open so new leadership can be let in.
That incident is bad enough. But, as noted above, there was another that took place. This instance involved a 7-year-old boy with ADHD. In this case, the boy’s mother was allegedly contacted by the administration at the charter school he attended and told he had been causing problems. This wasn’t anything new, as the school was aware. So, as she had apparently done before, she went to the school to pick him up.
Only to discover he had been taken into custody and transported to a behavioral health care facility. There he was held for close to a week before he was released to his family. The reasoning was he no longer presented a danger to himself.
Now, if the child was acting out to that degree, the district acted properly. However, its communication with the mother sucked big time. The district, of course, is refusing to release any details of the incident due to privacy laws. The mother is accusing them of not only poor communication but of using excessive force. You see, there are pictures of her son with his hands cuffed behind his back, walking down the school corridor between two uniformed officers. Now, I know it is only a picture and that means there is a lot we aren’t seeing. But, in this shot, we see a kid who is standing still and not acting out. He isn’t fighting the cuffs or the officers. he isn’t trying to get away. So what really happened?
By the way, even though the district claims it can’t say anything more about the incident, in a message to parents asking them “to not continue to spread misinformation.” So, it doesn’t want to give details or release the rest of the photos/video of what happened but it has no problem saying the mother is lying. Riiiiight.
Again, where is the accountability?
I have no doubt both incidents could have been handled much better than they were. Nor do I have any doubt that some of the blame for it lands squarely with the children and/or their parents. the 12-year-old shouldn’t have been fighting. The 7-year-old should not have been acting out. But, especially in his case, we need to know the full circumstances. The school apparently knew he had been classified as a special needs student (if I read the accounts right).
So, is the problem with training, with hiring the wrong employees or is there something else, something systemic within the district that needs to be corrected? Whatever it is, if I had a child of an age to go to public school and I lived in DISD, I’d have second — and third — thoughts about sending him.