The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Friday, May 13, 2005

A Bit of (Overdue) Ranting

Several events have happened around here whilst I was unable to post stuff here, and I cannot let them pass with no comment from me. They may not seem related on the surface, but related they are – all by one common denominator.

The first two made national news. Though unrelated events, they happened at the same school in St. Petersburg. One parent is trying to link them – but that doesn't fly with me. The first event was the publicizing of an unruly five year old girl, a kindergarten student, handcuffed by police and taken away. Apparently the teacher cleared the classroom (thus, this child's behavior interrupted the class and the learning experience of her classmates) and tried “reasoning” with the child – apparently the latest method in the science of dealing with children – but to no avail. Bear in mind this teacher's hands were – pardon the pun – tied by all the rules and regulations put in place by parents and the school board. She was not allowed to touch the child. She did manage to get the kid to the principal's office, where the child went into the destruct mode, tearing up the office and attacking the principal. The child's parent was called but unable to collect her little darling. The police were called. Off the video, but directing the situation, was a police officer who had dealt with this child in another incident. It was he who ordered she be cuffed, and they managed to remove her from the school. All of this was recorded on video – her classroom was one of those equipped with a running camera, and one was running in the principal's office.

All over the country folks were enraged. I am at a loss as to why they are enraged. Has no parent lately taught his/her child that there are consequences to his/her behavior? That behavior such as that exhibited in the videos requires the child be restrained to avoid hurting herself and/or others? That all other tools were removed from those adults into whose care this little darling was entrusted? I have been hearing folks say the poor child has 'issues,” and that those should be considered. I have heard this referred to as a racial issue, as the child was African American, and the officers on the video were Caucasian. It is not a racial issue – it is a discipline issue, and for the record, the police officer directing the situation, who had dealt with this child previously, was African American. I say, if this is how you raise your kid, this is what you can expect to happen to him/her. If she has “issues” the parents should be dealing with those issues, but still demanding the child, for her own well being and that of those around her, be accountable for his/her own behavior.

In the second instance at the same school, a little boy arrived late for breakfast, and hurried down the camera equipped corridor to get to his classroom. He turned a corner to go to class, then, seconds later, was seen to turn back onto the main corridor and out the door. He left school grounds and subsequently was hit by a car as he attempted to cross a busy street. Parents are up in arms. Why was he not escorted to his class? Why was he able to get out the door and off school grounds? And they blame the school, saying someone should have taken the time out from his/her already busy schedule, that he/she should have been away from his/her appointed classroom, (taking care of, teaching, the rest of the students in the class) to escort a child who knew where he was supposed to be anyway to a classroom which was in the same place it has been all school year. Was this child not taught that he belonged in school during the day? That it wasn't a choice, it was an established fact that he was required to be in a classroom being taught during school hours? This was not a kindergarten child, and though I do not recall his exact grade, I believe it was second or third – either of which gives the child enough school experience to know what is required of him as a student. If he decided, for some reason, to leave the school, he is leaving the safety of a learning center and off on his own. It was his behavior that led to his accident. Period.

We don't know why he left. Unfortunately, the little boy is still in a coma, and I am very sad for his family about that. That he was hit by a car is regrettable, but the school, certainly not his teachers, cannot be held to blame. After the first story, about the little girl in handcuffs, made national news (it had actually happened last fall) the mother, grasping at straws, said perhaps her child was afraid he would be handcuffed, too -- and fled. The school says it had kept the first incident quiet, that the student body did not know about it until the national televised news reports this spring, and the national television airing took place after the boy was hit by the car.

The third incident was a drug bust – a sting, actually. Local police were familiar with the location, having been there before. They knew the folks in the abode were drug people, that, in a prior sting, there had been guns on the premises, and they arrived prepared to deal with the situation. One sleepy inhabitant of that abode was repeatedly told to put his hands in a surrender position, yet he persisted in reaching down, under the sofa upon which he had been sleeping. When he would not comply with the repeated request, he was shot. Dead. Investigation of the premises revealed that, while there was no gun where the young man was reaching, there was a gun stashed under another sofa in the room. The family was, of course, upset. They had lost a family member, and upset is expected. But they claimed that there was unnecessary force in the firing of the gun, and that the force need not have been lethal. OK. Envision this – a grown man on a sofa reaching down for something under the sofa. What parts of the man are exposed? Yep – his vital parts. You can't shoot for a non-vital place because they are bent into the body. The neighborhood was up in arms, and of course, someone said that it was a race thing (the young man was African American) and an investigation, which declared it was a 'good shoot' – that it was necessary under the circumstances – was questioned as racially biased.

Bullfeathers. Listen – if this is the choice a person makes as to how he/she is going to live his/her life, then this is consequence that is always possible. Family members would do better to blame this life choice for the death of their loved one, because the lifestyle the man chose was a dangerous, life threatening one. The cops – in trying to keep the neighborhood safe for those children and adults who reside there, are not to blame for the result of someone who chooses a drug infested life and who threatens in action or in word those who would enforce the law. I would ask those agitators whose purpose is to stir up the neighbors what their reaction would have been if the young man had been able to access the weapon he knew was under one sofa or another, had fired that weapon, killed a cop, and subsequently been killed, or wounded and on trial for murder. Would their sympathies still be with the young man? The officer just removed step one of that scenario. The rest of the facts are still the same.

I guess responsibility is what I am getting at. If we don't teach our kids to behave when they are in the care of others, if we don't teach them that when they are sent to school in the morning, that is where they are to stay until dismissed, if we defend their actions when they are involved in illegal activities, we can expect bad things to happen to them. They need the guidance that can protect them from circumstances that embarrass and humiliate them and their families. We cannot make others the scapegoat when the bad behavior of our children leads to dire consequence. It is we – or if they are adult or, of an age where they understand the responsibilities they hold in their own lives, it is they – who are responsible for their own actions. No one else is accountable.

We pay teachers (too little) to teach our children, not escort them through halls or be abused by unruly children. We pay our police departments (also under-funded) to uphold the law, to aid us when we need aid, and to keep our neighborhoods as clear of drugs and crime as possible. They are doing their parts. We must do our part – and hold our young adults responsible for their own actions.

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