It has been several days now since the incident involving a school police officer and a female student in South Carolina. In the polarized climate that is 21st century America, it became quickly apparent that there would be no public consensus on the issue. Lines have been drawn, as they seem to be for everything, with “police supporters” who feel the officer was justified on one side, and those who see a problem with a grown, physically fit male manhandling a female high school student on the other.
I am a 29.5 year veteran of the public school classroom, and over the years I taught, I sent a number of students out of the room. Some refused to leave, and I required the help of an administrator to get them out of the room. “Oh, but things were different then,” you’ll tell me. Not really. Teenagers, for want of a better word, are crazy. The best honor student will occasionally do something stupid. They always have, and they always will. But “zero tolerance” policies and some schools’ willingness to use what should be a last resort as a first response are partly to blame for incidents like this.
One meme that is floating around suggests that the problem with today’s students is that they are somehow different than students in the past; that they are “spoiled brats” with no parental guidance. News flash: that type of student has always existed. Just because the people sharing the meme never got into any trouble, they seem to think that no student ever acted up, or got into trouble. The difference is that we now live in a society where many feel that every problem has to be addressed by an application of force.
Mark is a teacher in Maryland, and I’m happy to say that he was one of my first students. I’m not fully identifying him here because I don’t want him to get hate mail. You can send that to me. Mark shared a post with his Facebook friends in which he makes four exceptionally wise points about the South Carolina incident, and others like it that have been in the news in recent months. Out of all of the things he has to say, this sticks out the most to me:
We decide what we contribute to the communities in which we live, and our communities are the sum of those contributions. The only way to make our communities better than the knucleheads make them is to behave better than the knuckleheads.
Who could argue with that point? Here’s Mark’s complete (and completely brilliant) commentary from Facebook.
Featured image via NBC News screen capture