Another episode in the ongoing saga of inappropriate discipline of children in public schools:
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. A 5-year-old girl was arrested, cuffed and put in back of a police cruiser after an outburst at school where she threw books and boxes, kicked a teacher in the shins, smashed a candy dish, hit an assistant principal in the stomach and drew on the walls.
The students were counting jelly beans as part of a math exercise at Fairmount Park Elementary School when the little girl began acting silly. That’s when her teacher took away her jelly beans, outraging the child.
Minutes later, the 40-pound girl was in the back of a police cruiser, under arrest for battery. Her hands were bound with plastic ties, her ankles in handcuffs.
Let’s visualize that for a moment, shall we? A 5-year-old girl in the back of a police car with a plastic zip-tie around her wrists, and metal handcuffs like shackles on her ankles.
While police say their actions were proper, school officials were not pleased with the outcome.
“We never want to have 5-year-old children arrested,” said Michael Bessette, the district’s Area III superintendent.
The district’s campus police should have been called to help and not local police, he said.
Now this is refreshing. A school district official who actually has a modicum of common sense and recognizes how inappropriate and ridiculous it is to call the cops on small children acting up in class.
So what happened here? Was it the teacher who called police, or perhaps the school principal? I think somebody at that school is going to get a verbal lashing from the superintendent. I often wonder what the police themselves think of these situations. Do they view it as the stupid waste of time that it is? Why do they not protest their manpower being used in frivolous circumstances?
The girl’s mother, Inda Akins, said she is consulting an attorney.
“She’s never going back to that school,” Akins said. “They set my baby up.”
“Set my baby up”? Like public schools have nothing better to do than plot and scheme how they can get someone’s 5-year-old arrested?
It’s difficult to tell if the article presents us with enough contextual information, but it looks to me like the problem here is twofold:
1. Parents not disciplining their children properly and expecting the schools to handle it.
2. Laws that prevent schools from disciplining children effectively (such as not being allowed to touch them).
The child was misbehaving, and the teacher responded appropriately by taking away her jelly beans as a punitive measure. The child then had a meltdown, as normal 5-year-olds are wont to do, damaging property and assaulting people. If my child had freaked out like that, she’d be in a shitload of trouble. It wouldn’t occur to me to blame the school for “setting her up”.
My response, if something like this happened at home, would be to lock the child in her room for a period of time. I’d make it clear that anything the child destroyed or defaced in her room would be thrown out and not replaced. “You have to take care of your things or you can’t have them.” My own parents upheld this principle in our home, and it took me about 2 seconds to grasp its ramifications.
But police involvement is probably the logical consequence when parents fail to discipline their kids and schools are forbidden to. When you have a kid who’s out of control, what else can the teacher do? They’re not allowed to touch the child, or punish them, sometimes by a district-wide policy that is designed to avoid lawsuits from overly-permissive parents. So the only other source of restraint and punishment is the police department.
That’s dumb, which should be self-evident.
UPDATE: I encourage people to watch both of the videos available here (QuickTime required).
This child is not “emotionally disturbed”, or unusually large physically (she’s not 4’5″ — that has to be a reporter’s error). What I saw on those videos was almost laughable. She’s not thrashing or screaming or running around as the article implies. She strolls casually around the room, taking things apart, breaking items, pulling pictures off the walls, hardly makes a sound the whole time. The teachers just follow her and stand around, saying things like, “No ma’am, that’s not safe, you need to stop that and sit down” because they aren’t allowed to touch the kid! The assistant principal allows her to destroy her office, slowly, over the course of several minutes, and can do nothing but put her arms out like a basketball guard to try to keep the kid away from things.
Insane! If that kid were mine I would have grabbed her by the arm the first moment she started vandalizing the place and physically restrained her and put her in a chair and kept her there. The teachers should be allowed to do the same! There’s no excuse for kids to be permitted to act like this. This girl is nothing more than a spoiled, undisciplined brat who knows she can get away with anything because the teachers literally can’t touch her.
Finally the police show up and tell her to calm down and behave. She refuses, so the cops pull her up out of the chair where she’s sulking and handcuff her. This is the first time the kid begins to whine and howl like she’s being murdered. Typical young child being a drama llama. Wow, actual consequences for her actions! No wonder she’s pissed.
She’s not going to be traumatized from that incident. It’s a good thing the school had the presence of mind to tape it all (there was a video in the first classroom because of a school project that day) as proof that the child was not abused or harmed in any way.
Bah! When I was a kid, if I had acted like that, my teacher would have hauled me down to the principal’s office by my arm and left a bruise, and I would have deserved it!
Bad parents! Dumbass laws that don’t give schools the ability to control kids that parents refuse to control! No wonder we’re raising generations of spoiled, whiny barbarians!