The deputy and the student: That violent Spring Valley video

Again, South Carolina makes national news, and again, it’s in a bad way.

It’s early in the discernment process, and we lack any context (whatever the context may be), but the extremely brief video is a kick in the gut, especially the instant when the desk flips backward in a way that almost seems to defy physical laws. It’s amazing that the student wasn’t injured, a fact we can only chalk up to the resilience of youth.

Here, from The State, are the skimpy facts, which tell us next to nothing:

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an incident between a school resource officer and a female student at Spring Valley High School on Monday, after a video showing a confrontation was posted online.

The female student and a male student were arrested for disturbing the peace, said Richland County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Lt. Curtis Wilson. The resource officer, Senior Deputy Ben Fields, has been placed on administrative duties with pay pending the investigation’s results, according to Wilson.

While Fields will work at the Sheriff’s Department, he won’t be performing any duties at area schools. In a statement, the Richland 2 school district said it had “directed the school resource officer not return to any school in the district.”

The video shows Fields approach the female student seated in a desk. The resource officer proceeds to place his left hand on the female student’s left arm, before putting his right arm around her neck. Fields then flips the desk over, with the student still seated, before spinning it around and forcibly removing the student and trying to restrain her at the front of the classroom.

Wilson said no one was injured in the incident – neither the students nor Fields.

Wilson said prior to what is shown in the video, the female student was asked to leave the classroom and refused. Wilson said that was when the resource officer was called in….

The official response to the incident seems appropriately cautious so far. The sheriff is out of town. The mayor wants an independent investigation. The school district’s one response, saying it doesn’t want that officer back in the classroom, seems appropriate under the circumstances.

All we have now is a video that shocks the viewer as much as it seems to have shocked the bystanders, who react not at all — their stillness is almost eerie — except for the one who shot these 15 seconds.

Thoughts?

 

 

134 thoughts on “The deputy and the student: That violent Spring Valley video

  1. Harry Harris

    South Carolina may be in the news again, but it’s not necessarily in a bad way. Something bad happened here. SC seems to be the one state that has reacted to most of the police excessive force revelations in a sound manner – prosecuting and disciplining the officers involved. The upstate killing of the teenager seems to be the one exception, and I think parents are pursuing legal action to get answers there.

    Reply
  2. Doug Ross

    This is one of those situations where there is no point in offering an opinion. No matter what is said, someone will be offended.

    Although I loved the fact that Jesse Jackson’s first response was to call for a lawsuit. He’s shameless.

    Reply
    1. Barry

      Jesse is about making money- for Jesse. That’s why his first reaction is to call for someone to have to pay something.

      Reply
  3. Mark Stewart

    I haven’t watched the video and frankly don’t want to see it.

    The entire situation is wrong on every level. The girl’s actions, or inaction, are not the point here; this situation is an indictment of a failed educational system – not simply an example of individual behavior. In this regard this is substantially different than the North Charleston shooting and other cases like it. We could argue – but never conclusively – whether bias is a serious law enforcement problem. However, there is absolutely no way to frame this situation as anything other than the inevitable result of education – society at large actually – run off the rails.

    There is a reason why public education is so vitally important to society. It is a warning we need to heed. It is our civic institutions, far more than our economy, that are creating an abject underclass. Children are children; they learn from their elders. What are we teaching our children?

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      An eerie coincidence:

      Just last night I watched this episode of “The Wire.” It’s in the 4th season, which concentrated in large part on problems in the Baltimore schools. Part of the plot summary:

      Namond attends his separate class, part of a University of Maryland-funded investigation targeting prevention of repeat violent offender behavior at the school level. Howard “Bunny” Colvin oversees the class with Dr. David Parenti. Two specialist teachers try to control the children. One girl, Chandra, will not stop brushing her hair, so she is removed from the class. When she returns, Namond repeatedly acts out and tries to get himself suspended. The class has a no-suspension policy and he is simply removed from the class temporarily instead….
      Namond is removed from class again and refuses to talk to Colvin or the specialist teacher, instead repeating a profanity every time he is spoken to. Back in the class, Albert acts out after being asked to read a book. Colvin is dismayed at the difficulty of the task they have taken on, while Parenti is fascinated by the clinical aspects of the behavior exhibited.

      Basically, the standard response of Namond to the authority figures is “f___ you”…

      Reply
    2. Bryan Caskey

      “The girl’s actions, or inaction, are not the point here; this situation is an indictment of a failed educational system – not simply an example of individual behavior.”

      This sounds exactly like the Otter defense in Animal House.

      Before everyone jumps on me, I’m just making a joke. See, smiley face –> :)

      Reply
        1. Bryan Caskey

          Top 5 Legal Movies:

          1. My Cousin Vinny.
          2. A Time to Kill.
          3. Judgment at Nuremburg
          4. Miracle on 34th Street
          5. Law Abiding Citizen

          Yeah, it’s a mixed bag. Lots to choose from, but these are movies that I have seen plenty of times and would watch again, which is one of my measures of a good movie. Probably some deserving ones that I missed. For instance, I intentionally omitted TKAM, becuase while it’s good, I wouldn’t want to watch it again. Maybe A Man for All Seasons should be on there above #5, but I really like thriller/twist aspect of Law Abiding Citizen, even though it’s not as good of a movie overall.

          Reply
              1. Bryan Caskey

                Yeah, that was the “TKAM” that I referenced in my comment. Maybe it’s just because that movie is so popular, it’s almost trite. I know that’s a bad attitude to have about what is admittedly a great work, but honestly, if I was scrolling around netflix looking for a movie on a Friday night, TKAM wouldn’t be one that I would pick. Again, your mileage may vary.

                Reply
            1. Bryan Caskey

              Excellent call. This movie is highly quotable, which is another measure of a good movie.

              Now, most people will go straight for the Nicholson soliloquy at the end of the movie, but my favorite quote is this one.

              I use “Oh, you strenuously object?” all the time.

              Reply
      1. Mark Stewart

        Yeah, I thought that too. However, there is a difference: attitude, tools and buoyant expectations were the rule in Animal House – and were clearly the exception (from all quarters) at Spring Valley.

        This is not a Spring Valley problem, nor even a Richland 2 problem. It really is much larger than that. Which is the big reason why people are going to make this all about those 15 seconds caught on video; it keeps the introspection to a minimum.

        Reply
          1. Mark Stewart

            I’m not saying public education is at fault. I am saying it appears as though the “system” has given up on the kids in most need of the effort. And that this, like the criminalization and incarceration of a vast swath of people, can only have negative consequences for us all.

            Society can handle a small percentage of criminals, lay-abouts, drop-outs, etc. There will always be an underclass and that is just the way the world works. Social order, however, cannot function when a far larger percentage is actively discouraged from having a place in that society. We are incrementally, and without forethought, leading ourselves down this path to a civic schism.

            We need the vast majority of our citizens to believe that they have a seat at the table, that they do have opportunity, and that the rules apply to everyone. Our society needs these to be true.. That isn’t the way things are headed.

            Reply
            1. Bob Amundson

              I understand what Mark is saying. Unattached, disaffected youth can become lone serial mass murderers, violent gang members, or ISIL (ISIS) terrorists.

              Reply
            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              And I agree. I’m just not sure that this is what is happening here: “when a far larger percentage is actively discouraged from having a place in that society…”

              I don’t know whether that is happening in Richland District II.

              A few years back, District Two had the reputation of being better at most districts at helping disadvantaged students — those on free and reduced lunch — succeed academically. They had the scores to prove it.

              That was when Steve Hefner was superintendent. I don’t know whether that’s still the case.

              But here I go being inconsistent: I said I was suspicious of generalizations, yet I’m going to offer an even broader one: I’m inclined to think that this is less a failure of schools, and more a failure of society, in that we just have far too many families unable to function on the most rudimentary economic level.

              I got to thinking about that after the floods. I forget which which school or district it was, but in the midst of all the school closings, I saw a mention that even though school was closed for classes, it was still preparing breakfast and lunch for the kids who depend on that on a daily basis.

              Contemplate that: While the emergency dictated that classes be cancelled, the food service had to continue. No one gave a reason for that, but I inferred that it was because otherwise, those kids would go hungry on top of everything else.

              That speaks to such a profoundly desperate situation…

              Reply
              1. Bob Amundson

                Mark says, “I am saying it appears as though the ‘system’ has given up on the kids in most need of the effort.”

                I don’t think Mark is trying to quantify the problem. It is complicated, with parenting (poor parental skills, the “working poor”), schools, society, etc. all having responsibility. Complicated problems require complicated solutions.

                Reply
              2. Doug Ross

                The problem is too many people are having children that they either can’t or won’t care for properly. It all starts with that. Too young, too poor, too immature, too self-centered, too addicted, too dependent… pick any of those characteristics and if the woman in that situation has a kid, the outcomes are pretty much set. The kid becomes someone else’s problem.

                Reply
                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Yeah, and that’s the problem.

                  We can all say accurately that people shouldn’t be conceiving children they can’t support (and in the case I cite above, can’t even feed). But they do. And then we all have a problem.

                  And given that we do have that problem and are extremely likely to continue to have it, what do we do?

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Well, the SOLUTION is for everyone to be like my friend and colleague Warren Bolton.

                  Warren is quite open about the fact that, as the youngest child of a single mother, he was on free lunch in school. As he puts it, he greatly enjoyed and appreciated every one of them.

                  But his mother instilled in him the desire to learn, and he did. He always worked hard to make the most of the education he was offered. And rather than just becoming a statistic, he became the first and only African-American member of the editorial board of The State in its history.

                  So if every poor child were like Warren, the problem would be solved. But how on Earth do we make that happen?

                3. Mark Stewart

                  Those things are true of women at every socio-economic strata – and just as true for men, too, Doug. The world has no shortage of crappy parents.

                  The problem is we only pile on the poor ones. Those kids already suffer enough. They didn’t chose to be born to parents unable/unwilling to care for them. And yet we punish them as if the kids have already squandered the opportunity to control their destiny that we somehow believe they must have had in the first place. They didn’t; they are kids – poor kids born into a situation of limited means. What’s worse is we (as a society) then go about extinguishing their hope and future prospects.

                  Regardless of the how or why the situation is that a too large percentage of our future is made up of young people with limited educations and long criminal records. That doesn’t work for society.

                4. Doug Ross

                  I’ve offered my solution before: pay young women to delay having children until at least age 21. From age 15 to 18, the money goes to the parents. From 18 to 21, the money goes to the woman. $5K a year from 13 to 21. Double it if they use the money for college. $35K is a reasonable price to pay when all the other social costs are considered.

                5. Barry

                  I don’t agree with most of what Mark writes (no shock there). I do agree with Doug here (mildly surprised).

                  I’ll add that I am intimately aware of the problems in Richland 2 (and I know this applies to a few other local districts too)

                  1) Teachers aren’t parents. However, they have to be in some ways – and are at times expected to act like parents because the actual parenting is so poor – or non-existent.

                  2) A ton is asked of teachers. This is not new info, but what is required is increasing in many ways. They have to try to parent some kids, apply proper discipline to others so they can keep control of their classroom, challenge the kids in their class that are truly interested in learning and being challenged, and try to keep order for a class that often contains 27-32 students.

                  3) Beg, Beg, Beg, BEG, BEG kids to turn in their work on time, or at least no later than 3-5 days late. Teachers have always done this to some degree. But turning in work late is the rule more than the exception these days -and repeatedly begging the children- and parents- to get the work turned in is par for the course most of the time. I know because I see the proof all the time.

                  4) Deal with children that seem to be intent on creating havoc for other kids in the classroom. There are children that need to be reminded to follow the rules. There are children that need a few chances to stay on track. Then there are children that seem focused on creating problems, and seem to spend their time trying to cause problems for classmates to make their learning experience difficult.

                  5) Try to keep the kids engaged, while trying to avoid sending unruly children to the administrators because the administrators don’t want to deal with the issues- because the district puts continuous pressure on them to hold the discipline to a minimum so to keep the statistics in line. I wish this was fiction, but it’s not.

                  6) For those of us that are intimately familiar with these issues, there is no surprise when we hear of the huge teacher turnover in South Carolina (the number of teachers that choose to leave the profession every year). I could give you specific examples of this, and name names of teachers and describe situations of where specific schools were looking for qualified teachers well into the school year – , but I won’t do that on such a forum.

                6. Doug Ross

                  Barry – I am also very familiar with Richland 2. Three kids went through 13 years each, including one graduate of SVHS. Plus a spouse who has worked in the district for 18 years who has many teacher friends. You have captured the issues completely. Good kids with good parents end up with good outcomes. Unfortunately, the bar has been lowered and lowered in terms of expected behavior. Some time ago, the district began to change into a consumer style model of trying to please parents and students rather than expect everyone to follow the same rules. The results could have been predicted.

                7. Bob Amundson

                  I agree with the idea of investment. But let’s do it earlier and enjoy the benefits of compound interest. I do believe there is indeed a return on our investments in our children.

                8. Barry

                  Doug – correct

                  and the administrators at the schools are nervous to be too strict on kids because the district applies pressure- because the district is worried about too many kids (or too many kids of one color) being sent to the alternative school.

                  It’s a cycle – and a bad one.

                  I could give you true story after true story of my wife’s year last year that caused her to seek professional help. The most revealing part of her journey last year was that some of her fellow teachers were also seeking that same level of professional help.

  4. Karen Pearson

    It seems to me that by the time a child has gotten that old the only response to disobedience is to either continue to tolerate them in the class room, or to use force necessary to get them out. I don’t know what the girl did, so I can’t say whether or not it was tolerable. Nor can I say if a less violent means would have worked. But one way or another, discipline has to start far earlier when it’s possible to remove them in a less violent fashion. One other choice might be to move everyone else and leave her alone there, but that’s difficult unless there’s somewhere else to go, and everyone else is compliant. The answer? I don’t know, but I do know that by the time a child is that age it’s probably too late.

    Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      A small part of the problem is the obsession with using cellphones. The girl who was assaulted apparently was using her phone in class (against policy) and wouldn’t give it up. There isn’t any reason for a student (or teacher) to have a phone out during class. None. And now we have parents who won’t support the policy because they have to be able to text Little Jimmy during the day to see how he’s doing or if anyone is being mean to him or if the teacher is assigning too much homework or be able to contact him in case a band of gun toting murderers attack the school. They’ve been trying for years to control cellphone use in schools and the kids just keep trying to get around it.

      Reply
      1. Barry

        Doug- Correct

        My son has his cell phone at school but he isn’t allowed to take it out during class.
        I’ve told him he gets no warnings from me regarding his phone. If he gets “written up’ for having his phone out in class, his phone is gone for the remainder of the school year. No warnings – no 2nd chances from me or his mom (my wife).

        I’ve also told him in emergencies- I’ll call the school to get him – I won’t call his cell because he’s not supposed to be on it unless he’s at lunch or has free time at the end of the day.

        of course I monitor his use so I can tell how much he’s on it- and he knows my rules and so far he hasn’t abused those rules.

        But again- I realize most parents aren’t going to do that – and are gong to defend their child’s “RIGHT” to a cell phone.

        Such is today’s world.

        Reply
    2. Barry

      The child can’t remain in the classroom on any regular basis in such a case because that creates problems for children that want to learn.

      They need to be out of the classroom – but as a first step, the parents have to be contacted and asked to come to the school to provide assistance. The officer pulling her out should have been the very, very, very last resort – and even then, the officer should have talked to her for minutes on end before trying to touch her in any way.

      Now, yes- there are parents that wouldn’t come to the school to help. My wife has had parents tell her ” You do something. I can’t control him/her either. ” But you have to at least try to engage the parent (or parents) first.

      Maybe that happened here and we might find that out. But it doesn’t look like that right now.

      Reply
    1. Barry

      I agree with Bryan – but there is no way a student would be expelled in such a situation.

      Just doesn’t happen like that in District 2.

      Students are given repeated chance after repeated chance with repeated parental conferences after repeated parental conferences- and then more chances before such an issue is considered.

      My wife was almost struck by a student throwing something at her last year that would have likely put her in the hospital – and the student ended up in lunch detention. My wife was very upset – but she learned a valuable lesson- and the kids did too – the administration is afraid of the district- and the district is afraid of parents.

      Reply
      1. Norm Ivey

        The student should not be expelled for this incident. Suspension and documentation. There were no students in danger. Disruptions are temporary, and the consequences should be also.

        Reply
        1. Mark Stewart

          Norm, I agree. Way, way too many students in SC are expelled – for things which would not warrant more than a parent-administrator conference for more socio-economically privileged students.

          All day long the student here was wrong: wrong actions, wrong decisions, wrong responses. That’s a kid – especially one giving up.

          Of greater concern is that, to me, everything about this situation appears to have been handled poorly from the adults involved. I get that they are under-resourced and over-stressed. And I think that is a civic failing and yet another reason why we need to support teachers and the critical work they do. However, the teacher, the administrator(s) and the deputy failed to do the right thing – help the child to find a different outcome.

          I see here a linear series of conflict escalation choices; and not a single effort – at least as reported – to de-escalate events and understand the student’s motivations. I’m saying understand where they are coming from, their frame of reference; not necessarily agree with them or certainly accept their non-cooperation.

          I know it sucks to take time away from the other kids to deal with the disrupter. I also get that a lot of these kids would rather have negative attention than no attention at all. But what I see most of all here is a school process that has abdicated its responsibility to control the environment as a place of learning to the tyranny of the maladjusted children; just because it’s easier to call a cop. That is, plain and simple, the wrong approach.

          Reply
          1. Doug Ross

            “I see here a linear series of conflict escalation choices; and not a single effort – at least as reported – to de-escalate events and understand the student’s motivations.”

            Sadly, this is the philosophy that has got us to where we are today. The students are to be treated like special snowflakes. We can’t even start with the basic expectation of them acting respectful and following rules.

            I taught three years of Sunday school to 4th graders. Kids from good homes, mostly upper middle class. This was one hour a week. Each year, there were one or two boys who were completely out of control. Throwing pencils, hitting kids, speaking when they shouldn’t. It didn’t matter what was done to deal with them – attention, punishment, talking to parents, you name it. These kids were just brats, plain and simple. And their presence impacted every other kid in class, every week. I can’t imagine what it’s like to deal with 16-18 year olds with the same attitude. If they haven’t learned to behave by then, their chances of succeeding are minimal – I don’t care how small you get the class size or how much money you throw at the problem.

            Reply
            1. Norm Ivey

              …speaking when they shouldn’t.

              Kids have to talk to learn. The times they shouldn’t be talking should be minimal. If the teacher is doing all the talking, there’s a problem.

              And we have to teach the brats as well. We don’t have a choice in the matter. When they act out, de-escalation is always more productive than escalation.

              Reply
              1. Doug Ross

                I said “when they shouldn’t”. For example, if you are reading a story to 4th graders, they should be able to sit and pay attention for five minutes. Or if another student is leading a prayer, little Jimmy doesn’t need to be jumping around the room.

                We lived through one of the worst disruptive kids in my youngest son’s first grade class. This kid was uncontrollable and his mother threatened a lawsuit against the district if he was punished in any way. He ended up in a gang and dropped out by high school. No surprise. No father at home, three brothers by different fathers, no expectation of good behavior by the mother, total defiance from her that fed into her kid. No amount of extra time or money would fix these kind of kids. Nothing short of making them wards of the state and putting them into boarding school would help. And that’s not happening.

                Reply
                1. Barry

                  or the problem my wife had last year

                  her kids would be talking out loud during tests – and testing- distracting the kids in the class that cared about their test results.

                  Warning a child and them correcting their behavior isn’t what is a problem.

                  The problem- and it’s not new- is kids that don’t want to comply, aren’t going to comply, and their parents don’t want to make them comply.

  5. Norm Ivey

    As a teacher, the first thing that strikes me about this video is why the hell is everybody still in the room? If you have a disruptive student, the student won’t leave, and efforts by an administrator will not bring the situation under control, you empty the classroom. Let the authorities deal with it as they sit fit at that point. Remove the audience.

    I don’t know if this child has been raised poorly by her family, or if the school system failed her, or if the cop was overly aggressive, or if the teacher over-reacted, or if the kid was having a teenage emotional day, or she was born to too-young parents, or what. To blame this incident on any of those without more information is conjecture. I suspect it was a day when a confluence of factors came together to create an ugly situation.

    If, as Doug suggests, it was related to cell phone use, I’m certain the response was excessive.

    Put away your phone
    No.
    Give me your phone.
    No.

    Write it up and move on with your lesson. The girl ends up suspended. A kid on the phone isn’t enough of a disruption to bring in the SRO. I suspect there’s more to the story than a cell phone.

    Mark is accurate when he observes that the system has given up on some segments of society. If we expect schools to counterbalance poor parenting skills (and we do), then you’d better fund the schools like you mean it, and not just look for ways to further insulate your kids from those kids with voucher systems those kids can’t access.

    To Barry’s points:
    1) Teachers are not parents, but you must treat your students as if they were your own children. It’s part of the job.

    2) Too much is asked of teachers, and yes, class size often creates challenges both in management and and engagement. Here’s the trick: The more engaging lessons are, the less behavior management is needed. You can reduced class size and work load by increasing the number of teachers in every building. Don’t see it happening in SC.

    3) Accept the late work, mark it fairly and move on.

    4) Havoc-causing kids: As a male teacher, I had many kids moved into my room because maybe she’ll be better with a male teacher. No action in the school made me angrier than this. Yes, often those kids did better for me than they did in other classes, but it had nothing to do with my gender. It had to do with how I treated the child. I had plenty of kids who were disruptive and unpleasant. It was my responsibility to reach them as best I could.

    5) My experience with administrators has always been Deal with it in the classroom first. If you can’t continue with the lesson, call an administrator.. Never had one tell me don’t call me.

    6) 50% of teachers leave the profession in the first five years. There are teaching positions in District 2 open for the current school year. When a district like 2 is looking for teachers, you know you are looking at a teacher shortage. Whacha gonna do, South Carolina?

    Doug’s pay-them-to-not-have-babies solution may very well work, but it’s not going to happen. Ever. It’s not a realistic solution. We have to deal with the world as it is.

    Disclaimer: I am a Technology Coach in District 2. I was a classroom teacher for 23 years.

    Reply
    1. Barry

      Norm,

      There is no doubt that there is more to the story. I asked my 9th grade son about it since he sees issues like this with phones a good bit. . He thinks the teacher might have told the girl he/she was going to take the phone and keep it (That’s the rule if your phone is out at my son’s high school). So the girl didn’t want to put it up or leave or anything- which of course meant things weren’t going to end well for her.

      To respond to your responses:

      1) Of course you have to treat them as your children. But the children know you aren’t their parents – and the kids that need parenting the most know that- and treat you accordingly.

      2) I disagree on “engaging lessons’ being the ultimate answer. My wife played games last year with her students where they had to use their computers to answer questions (which the kids love) and she had kids standing up in class swinging their fists at other students during the computer games. It sounds good- but it’s not always an answer.

      3) Late work is accepted all the time. You must have missed my first statement which was – begging, begging, and begging the students to turn it in. Late isn’t the issue. Turning it in at all is the issue. “Grading accordingly” isn’t really allowed. There is a limit on how low the grade can go so getting a very bad grade isn’t a concern of the students. The issue is getting the work turned in in the first place. (My wife had 2 of her students last year email her numerous assignments the afternoon she arrived home on the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL. Reports cards had already been issued. School was done. One of the students got their parent involved, who got an administrator involved– and the parent ended up going to the district office. My wife ended up having to accept the work over a week after school was over which of course created more work for her).

      4) Maybe you just care about the kids more than my wife and every other team Norm. Kudos to you for having the magic touch. But somehow I doubt you care more than my wife did- or showed them you cared more than my wife did. if you met her, you’d know I’m right.

      5) Well, teachers know they should try to handle it first. That’s not news. Any teacher that calls an administrator for everything right away doesn’t need to be a teacher. Administrators don’t “tell” a teacher not to call them. It’s what they don’t say, that often matters. It’s how they react.

      6) Teachers leave the profession for various reasons. 1) Pay. 2) Don’t enjoy it. 3) Discipline issues cause havoc for the teacher. 4) Don’t get adequate support 5) Combination of factors

      My wife is a current teacher. Their “teacher specialist” at their school who has been teaching for almost 30 years and now is there to help new teachers told my wife last year it was as bad as she’s ever seen it at their particular school. BTW- and Brad knows this – last year every member of the team my wife is on at her school was taking anti depressants due to their job – and she has new teachers on her team- and teachers with 20+ years experience.

      Reply
      1. Norm Ivey

        @Barry

        The policy in District 2 is when a teacher takes a phone, they turn it over to an administrator, who will then contact the parent and return. Neither the district nor the teacher can keep a phone. Engaging lessons are not the ultimate answer. For some students, we have yet to find the answer. However, the more engaged a student is, the less likely they are to cause a disruption. My policy on late work was to accept it when it was handed in, and grade it. If it came after the end of the marking period, I graded it, but did not enter it in the gradebook. The parents can monitor grades online. They ask me why the grade is low. I explain. The conflict should be between the child and the parent. Once, I had a student bring me work after the end of the year. I graded it and recorded it. It was the difference in whether the child passed or failed the year. It was the right thing to do. Those are the kinds of things that go along with the job. All jobs have their thorns. I’ve never felt anything from my administrators except their support in disciplinary situations–except in a couple of cases where I was in the wrong. Teachers leave for all of the reasons you cite, except I’ve never heard of a teacher leaving just because of the pay. We are paid fairly.

        I don’t mean to be disparaging or dismissive of your wife or anyone that teaches. I am sorry that I came across that way. On the contrary, I’ll defend any teacher who has spent more than a couple years in the classroom. It’s the hardest job in the world, and it’s a job that everybody thinks they can do better, or at least has an opinion about how it should be done. I am certain she cares–I’ve only known a handful of teachers who don’t care, and they removed themselves from the classroom fairly quickly.

        Here’s the thing about teaching. As a group, the kids are not going to change. The behaviors that are happening this year will happen again next year. Only the names and faces will change. You might have a kid every once in a while who turns himself around, but they are generally the same year after year. We can’t change that. We can’t change the way kids are raised. We can’t make kids turn in their work on time or wear their ID tag or pull up their pants. We can’t make the parents attend conferences or make sure the kids get a good night’s sleep or have a healthy breakfast. We can’t make them do their homework.

        What we can do is control how we respond to the challenges. That’s all we control.

        I’ve had days and years when those challenges overwhelmed me. More than once I spent my summers exploring careers that might be less stressful. The workload and working conditions for teachers is something no one except another teacher (or a teacher’s spouse) can appreciate.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “What we can do is control how we respond to the challenges. That’s all we control.”

          That’s a good, level-headed, mature way to look at it.

          But while it is true, doesn’t the teacher feel tremendous pressure to control the kids, even if it’s impossible? Were I a teacher, I would feel that everyone was expecting me to keep order, for the sake of the kids who are there to learn. It might not be possible to control the problem kids, but I would feel like everyone expected me to…

          Reply
          1. Matt Bohn

            When you call an adminstrator, you are admitting that the problem is beyond your control. It’s kind of a last resort option to be done in emergencies only. Doing so lowers your standing in front of the students, and isn’t going to please the admin. I don’t know what exactly happened in that class. I can only speak from experience that tells me that you need to be flexible as a teacher and roll with things. Use humor to diffuse situations and develop a thick skin. They’re just kids and the vast majority of the time they calm down and respect you more if you don’t make a big deal out of things like having a phone out. You’re dealing with teenagers. Some with very real problems and troubling situations at home beyond the scope of what most teachers deal with outside of school. Add to that the teenage need to defy authority and you have a recipe for disaster if you try to enforce every rule and get into a power struggle with a student. That’s what this turned into, a power struggle. Teachers always lose power struggles. Authority loses power struggles. We could talk about examples all day long. Bottom line: solve things in your own classroom whenever possible without calling for help unless it’s an emergency. Having a phone out doesn’t sound like an emergency to me. If absolutely necessary, write the student up AFTER the class. Initiating a stand off is inviting disaster.

            Reply
            1. Bryan Caskey

              “Authority loses power struggles.” “Initiating a stand off is inviting disaster.”

              Huh? I have to disagree. Lawful authority almost always wins power struggles.

              I’ll admit that the closest I’ve come to being a teacher is coaching four-year-old YMCA soccer, but were I a high-school teacher, open defiance would be a “red line” for me. Tolerating open defiance is what leads to out-of-control classrooms, kids wandering around, yelling, etc. If a student is breaking any rule, and I tell them to change seats, or spit out the gum, or to hand over something like food, games, or other contraband, and then they fail to comply with the my direction, then there’s a problem that has nothing to do with the talking in class, chewing gum, or whatever the underlying issue was.

              I’m guessing 99.9% of the time, the student hands over the item, and begs for a second chance, which I may or may not give. End of issue.

              Failure to comply is a stand-alone problem far greater than chewing gum or texting during class or whatever the minor infraction is. Refusing to comply is a separate infraction. If a student openly defies,then you have to escalate, or otherwise take action to address the defiance. You can’t simply let the children decide which rules they’re going to follow and which ones they are not.

              Reply
              1. Norm Ivey

                As a teacher, you’d make a great lawyer. 😉

                Teaching is not about compliance. It’s about relationships. You don’t tolerate defiance in a classroom, but neither do you toss a kid from their chair for it. Teaching is not about assigning seats or denying a kid the pleasure of a stick of gum. It’s about helping kids to learn how to manage their own behavior–to choose seats wisely and to choose healthy, mannerly habits.

                And yes, the vast majority of the time kids do what you ask, even in those cases when we ask them to do ridiculous things.

                Reply
                1. Bryan Caskey

                  Norm, I totally agree with you that it’s all about relationships. Don’t get my earlier comment wrong. I’m not saying that I would be a Gunnery Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. I think part of any “relationship” is that there needs to be a mutual understanding of everyone’s expectations and what the consequences are of not meeting those expectations are. And I agree that teaching is not about compliance, but without some basic compliance as a baseline, you can’t teach.

                  As a teacher, you have to figure out how to get compliance/trust. Some people need a pat on the back, and some people need a kick in the behind. It’s up to the teacher to figure out what the right motivation is. I guess you could say being a teacher is very much being a good leader. You’re in a leadership role as the head of the classroom, and good leadership means having the trust (and compliance) of the people you are in charge of.

                  Side note, the other line item on my teaching resume is that I am currently teaching Sunday School at my church to the two year old class with my wife. I have an awesome time doing it, playing with the kids, doing little Bible stories with puppets and books, etc. So far, I have not had to call in law enforcement. :)

                  In any event, relationships are important. We all knew which teachers we could push further than other teachers. Looking back, the best teachers I had were the ones who expected the most, because they got it. I think I would be a pretty doggone good teacher. Unless it was teaching statistics.

                  Don’t ask me about my experience with statistics in college. It was like ‘Nam for some people. I was forced to be there, it didn’t really make sense why I had to be there, we lost a lot of good men there, and I don’t want to talk about it. :)

              2. Barry

                Bryan

                Last year there wasn’t a week (hardly a day) that went by where my wife didn’t end up just letting a student do what they wanted in her class because they wouldn’t follow along, wouldn’t do their work, and told her they wouldn’t do their work. (It was a common thing with her group last year)

                She didn’t have time to call the administrator every day so she let those certain kids sit at their desk, sleep at their desk, or draw stick figures at their desk.

                You aren’t going to win an argument with a kid that doesn’t want to do their work, can’t be inspired to do their work, and where the parent can’t make them do the work either.

                Reply
                1. Barry

                  Bryan-

                  she taught 6th graders.

                  It was very, very tough. My wife cried a lot last year. She lost 15 pounds. (She only weighed 112 or so to begin with)

                  She’s out of that now though as she transferred into a magnet program where the kids and the parental involvement is good – and the discipline issues are much, much less. as a result.

                  The teacher that replaced her? My wife has talked to her this year several times. She told my wife that part of her normal after school routine is “a good cry.”

                2. Bryan Caskey

                  Wow, that’s awful. The most stress I have is some other lawyer being a jerk or unreasonable in regards to a case, but that’s kind of an occupational hazard in my field. I cannot imagine what it’s like to have sixth graders already that…far gone.

                  I know there’s a lot of people who say that the schools are failing the students, and I’m sure there’s some truth to that. But it certainly sounds like some of us in South Carolina (families, parents, students) are failing the schools. Not sure how you solve that, or if you can.

                3. Barry

                  I don’t know the answer Bryan.

                  It talked with my wife again tonight about some of her issues last year.

                  She said most of her parents did care- but a lot of them didn’t know what to do with their own children. They would admit it to her. Too often their answer for their unruly child was to tell my wife that they would “wear” their child out. I guess they meant spanking them.

                  But that doesn’t work. Just spanking them isn’t proper discipline. They could spank them, but if they don’t teach them how to change their behavior, or give them incentive to change, they just repeat it because the kids don’t know any other way.

                  Some of the “moms” in her class are terribly young- already with middle school age kids. One “mom” was actually the grandmother trying to raise the child as the mom was out of the pictures (there was no dad). This grandmother was 38 years old. Unreal and sad.

                4. Bryan Caskey

                  “Too often their answer for their unruly child was to tell my wife that they would “wear” their child out. I guess they meant spanking them.”

                  Maybe we do need Gunnery Sgt. Hartman to teach some classes. “Wear them out” would have a different meaning.

                1. Norm Ivey

                  You’re both absolutely correct. Authority wins in the long run. But winning in the long run is not the same as winning in the short term. In this incident, authority got its way, but it sure doesn’t look like winning–especially in the eyes of a kid. The initial offense–refusing to surrender the phone–will likely go unaddressed.

                  We have a little saying in education. You should never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.

              3. Mark Stewart

                I agree with Matt. One has to subvert the power struggle – rechannel it.

                Even police authority can meet its match in civil disobedience situations. Sometimes escalation is authority’s worst, most counter-productive impulse. I’ve seen the same thing in the courtroom, too.

                I think we would all be better served if we think of authority more as leadership; that it is the responsibility of the leader to be persuasive and direct others to demonstrate proper behavior. Pummeling someone into submission is dictatorial, but it is not leadership. Doug dismissively calls students, in this case, that are not toeing the line special flowers. They aren’t; they are human beings. We get more out of unlocking their potential than we ever will out of enforcing arbitrary authority.

                If the behavior is not dangerous and criminal – really criminal, not “detrimental to the classroom” – than police force is never the appropriate resolution.

                Reply
                1. Doug Ross

                  Mark, you are liVing in a fantasy world of platitudes. Schools are not therapy sessions. The teacher student ratio makes it impossible for teachers to connect with each individual student AND do their job of teaching. This is even more obvious at the middle and high school level where the time a teacher has with any one student is just minutes per week. Teachers can’t fix these kids. It’s the parent’ responsibility to raise their kids to be prepared to behave appropriately in class.

                2. Mark Stewart

                  No, Doug, I live in the world of cold, hard experience. That experience has taught me that there is far too little empathy in this world.

                  The prime, number one responsibility of a teacher is to connect with students. Learning follows from that, not the other way around. It is also true that teachers cannot fix kids – and that we as a society expect too much from teachers. I also agree that it is a parent’s responsibility to prepare their child for living a productive, healthy life.

                  That said, would it surprise you to learn that this student was recently (like within a couple of weeks) placed into foster care? Do you have any experience with that? So tell me again how I am living in a fantasy world because I expect that the adults in the room act like adults?

                  No where have I said that this girl’s actions were acceptable or that she should not be accountable for them. But do not think for one minute that I will ever condone the way that our society finds it easier to punish children for their parents’ (metaphorically) bad behavior.

                  Between the child and the teacher, principal and cop I will always, as a realist, see this as a failure of the adults and I will expect that they be held accountable for this escalation and lack of leadership.

                3. Matt Bohn

                  Well said, Mark. The most effective way to gain compliance that I’ve found is to demonstrate understanding and caring towards students. What would Mr. Rogers do. It sounds lame, but it works better than commands, demands, and threats of punishment. The vast majority of students want to get along with the teacher but are hurting or lacking structure in some way. Sure enough, she has a recent backstory of being orphaned and put into foster care. They got her phone though. They showed her. A power struggle where, once again, no one wins. It could have been avoided with empathy.

                4. Doug Ross

                  Schools are for education. We’ve seen them change into something else over the past thirty years and it hasn’t been for the better.

                  “They got her phone though”. Because she knew the rules and broke them. Because she was openly defiant to people asking her to behave responsibly. Because she probably has had little responsible parenting in her first 15 years to teach her the right way to behave in a school. There aren’t enough hours in the day for teachers to be expected to connect with, analyze, sympathize, and treat every student AND teach the subjects they are expected to teach. Maybe in a few individual cases where the student seeks help from a specific teacher, but it’s no replacement for a parent.

                  What we need to be teaching kids at the earliest age is to NOT have kids they can’t take care of.

                5. Barry

                  Well, I don’t know if they “got her phone though.” Who knows at this point.

                  We all have sympathy for children that have a tough time. Teachers like my wife have sympathy for them too – and they try their best to connect with them. They work every day at it.

                  But they can’t allow one child to ruin the classroom for 28 other children. Teachers like my wife have conferences all the time with parents that are complaining about how their child is having problems learning at school because the classroom environment is being damaged by a few troublemakers.

                  There are children there that can be reached. But- and this is reality- there are students that don’t want to be reached, aren’t interested in connecting with the teacher, and are intent on making things hard as possible for the teacher and other students.

                  Teachers are forced- required- to walk that tight -rope every day. They don’t have the luxury of discussing theories about it on message boards.

            2. Barry

              Administrators are usually no more equipped to handle a problem kid than the teacher- and in some cases they are worse at it.

              I have many, specific examples of this – but in summary- often my wife’s administrator will simply take the kid to his office and let him sit in his office for a class block or two and then return the child to the class-room. which in reality means it can be a nice break for the kid.

              There are many administrators that were only in a classroom for 5 years or less. Many of them don’t have the classroom skills that the teachers they supervise already have in place.

              and as my wife recently found out by one of their administrators at her school – “The kids have changed at our school in the last 5 years since I was teaching”

              Reply
          2. Norm Ivey

            You cannot control another person’s actions, no matter how much you may want to or try. Your life as a teacher will be misery if you think you can.

            This event was an aberration. Look at the other students in the video. They remain seated for the most part. They do nothing to inflame the situation–this is what most of your students are like. They don’t require “control.” They are self-controlled.

            There were so many ways this could have been defused.

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Oh, I wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking I could control their actions. I would assume I couldn’t, which is why I wouldn’t want to be a teacher.

              This is why, for instance, I’ve always known that I should not be in sales. Success or failure depends on what OTHER people decide to do — whether they buy your goods or services. I watched one ad director after another fail at the paper because the whole marketing business changed to where businesses wanted to communicate directly with particular customers rather than mass markets, which meant they simply did not want ads in a mass medium. Ad people’s success or failure depending on selling ads no one wanted to buy. A nightmare.

              Whereas I didn’t have to persuade readers to agree with the opinions we expressed. I just had to make them reasonable and well-argued, as a contribution to a civil public conversation. (I worked at being persuasive as though it WAS my job to change everyone’s mind, but I knew I didn’t HAVE to.) If the Legislature didn’t do what I recommended, I would be frustrated, naturally. But I would not have failed, the way an ad person fails if he or she can’t get the buyer to buy…

              Reply
              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Similarly, being a good teacher depends on whether the students cooperate and engage with your teaching. Again, you’re dependent on what OTHER PEOPLE choose to do. I don’t like that.

                It’s probably related to being extremely introverted as Myers-Briggs defines it — meaning that I get energy from within; the approval I seek is my own. An extrovert is comfortable in sales, and probably more comfortable being a teacher, than I could ever be…

                Reply
                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  I’m more comfortable speaking to college classes than high school, and prefer graduate students to undergraduates.

                  The higher you go, the more they are likely to engage…

                2. Norm Ivey

                  being a good teacher depends on whether the students cooperate and engage with your teaching.

                  And you get them to engage and cooperate by building relationships.

                3. Doug Ross

                  There is a difference between the word “comply” and “behave”. Students should be expected to behave appropriately. That means being respectful, being attentive, and being quiet when they should be quiet.

                  I believe Richland 2 had some training sessions a few years ago that suggested kids should be treated differently based on their backgrounds. That is a mistake in my opinion. The expectation should be the same for everyone.

                4. Mark Stewart

                  I totally agree Doug. The expectation should be the same for everyone: No one (teachers and administrators included) should escalate such a situation in this manner.

                  It wouldn’t happen to my child, even if he did exactly the same kind of refusing. Every parent should have that basic expectation. Which in no way means consequences for poor behavior are not appropriate. Just not along this path.

  6. Barry

    Norm

    But I do agree with you- the teacher I this case should have just moved on and wrote the student up if it was really about a cell phone.

    The parents could be called later and notified.

    This seems so unnecessary to me – and the officer went way overboard.

    Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      We’re two months into the semester. It’s likely this wasn’t the first encounter between the teacher and the student. Most teachers I’ve seen would reach this point as a last resort. It would be interesting to know if the student had any prior incidents in the classroom. Should that factor into the decision on how to respond? Or is it a clean slate every day?

      Reply
      1. Norm Ivey

        It should factor into overall response. Should the student be suspended or recommended for expulsion? You certainly want to consider the student’s history in that regard. That shouldn’t be a consideration in choosing to use force to remove the student from the room.

        Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          Based on your experience, Norm, would you expect this was a first time incident and that the teacher escalated it too quickly?

          Reply
          1. Norm Ivey

            I have no way of knowing if it was a first-time event, and I won’t speculate. I know from personal experience if you let a child’s past behavior or your personal feelings about the child influence your decision making with a current event, you may make the wrong call. As the adult in the room, the onus is on the teacher to handle the situation calmly. I am sorry to say I did not always make the right choice.

            If this was about a cell phone, it escalated too quickly. There are other options that would deliver a consequence to the student without the violence.

            Reply
  7. Doug Ross

    Another question to consider is how have we reached the point where it is considered normal to have a police officer in a school? Would you all be okay with removing them from the schools? What’s different now as compared to 30 years ago (at least where I grew up) that the only time cops showed up at school was for career day or to bust a dangerous kid who had half a roach in his pocket?

    Now we have metal fences surrounding the schools, expensive (but mostly useless) technology to monitor visitors to schools, background checks on volunteers, zero tolerance policies, “character” training, etc. And is the learning environment better? Not in the least. We have helicopter parents hectoring teachers, do-gooders who want to remove any “bad” foods, administrations that live in fear of lawsuits, an overemphasis on football games, etc. It’s not about teachers teaching kids any more.

    Reply
  8. Burl Burlingame

    There are myriad reasons why the girl refused to move — if that was actually the case — ranging from a period accident (it happens) to a bad case of ennui, to simply acting out. I well remember a couple similar incidents in my high school, and none of them resulted in a police officer slamming a kid. Emotions run high in teens.

    Oddly, just this morning I ran across my 2nd grade report card. In the year-end comments, I discovered that I was a problem child. Evidently I refused to do assignments that bored me. But my lowest grade was in Chinese.

    Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      “There are myriad reasons why the girl refused to move – if that was actually the case ”

      Burl – there have been multiple witnesses (including the kid who took the video) who have corroborated the general events that led up to the officer entering the room. It came down to her not wanting to give up the phone and escalated from there. Try and take a phone away from a teenager sometime just for the fun of it. Then start ducking.

      Reply
  9. susanincola

    I am concerned about using a n SRO (police officer) as a disciplinarian. If there is not already a dangerous situation, but just a recalcitrant student, the school should deal with it as a discipline issue. It’s not like disruptive students are a new thing in schools. We even had them in the dark ages when I was a child.
    What would they have done if there was no SRO there? That’s what I think they should have done.

    Reply
    1. Norm Ivey

      Exactly. If the kid is truly disruptive and refuses to leave with the admin, you empty the room and let her sit alone. Write it up. She gets suspended.

      Reply
      1. Barry

        I agree with Norm here on this point.

        I told my wife right after I first heard about it- and it’s hindsight for me- but why not just her to herself and take the class to the library or lunchroom – or out in the hall.

        Call the parents. Notify them of their disobedience and document it.

        The girl has serious problems in this case- and likely her parents don’t have good controls on her. Ultimately, this probably won’t end well for her as she’s going to have a very difficult life unless she turns things around.

        Reply
  10. Burl Burlingame

    If the incident is solely about her cell phone, why the big effort to toss her out of her chair?

    I hear the kids who filmed the incident have been suspended. Obviously, THEY had cell phones.

    Some classrooms have soft pockets on the wall near the door. Students deposit their phones in the individual pockets when they enter class, retrieve them when they leave.

    Reply
    1. Barry

      She was apparently using the phone as the teacher was trying to teach.

      The other kids pulled out their cell phones when they could see this was going to turn into an incident of some type. I don’t believe anyone has said the other kids were using their phone.

      He wasn’t trying to toss her out of the chair Burl. He was trying to get her up and out of the room. But the desks are small, she wasn’t tiny, and her leg got caught on the chair.

      I don’t think anyone has suggested he was trying to turn her chair over with her in it just to do it.

      Reply
      1. Bryan Caskey

        Another proposed solution: Let’s give teachers a handheld EMP device which they can use to stop unauthorized cell or other electronic device usage.

        I’m only half-kidding about this. The more I think about it, it’s not an entirely bad idea. “Don’t want the teacher to EMP your $600 iPhone? Don’t bring it to class.”

        Reply
  11. susanincola

    Also, this all seems to me to be somewhat unfair to the SRO. This man did what police officers often do in situations where a person doesn’t comply with an officers’ request. Maybe the problem is at least as much with a system that has allowed what started as a very defined role for the SRO as a police officer to avert dangerous criminal activity to degenerate into being a part of the discipline at the school.

    It reminds me of how community policing has become more military-like — also an inappropriate use of methods. What’s appropriate in war is not appropriate in standard policing. What’s appropriate for policing is not appropriate as school discipline.

    Reply
    1. Kathryn Fenner

      He crossed the line into angry retaliation once she was on the floor and he dragged her, etc. He had my sympathy up ’til then,

      Reply
  12. Harry Harris

    I think Sheriff Lott expressed his dismay that a discipline problem was turned into a national news story by the school’s staff too readily relying on law enforcement to handle something they should be dealing with in a more effective manner themselves. It was escalated by the resource officer’s resorting to physical force too quickly, without backup, and without apparently advising the student she would be arrested – simply telling her he would remove her if she didn’t comply. Bad policing can become bullying. He could have caused or received serious injury that might have been avoided by a more measured response. The class was already disrupted. Waiting for a call to a parent, backup from another officer, making clear her violation of the “disturbing school” law, emptying the classroom, and other precautions – even a “cool-down” period might have worked. What seemed a rush to physical force will probably cost the officer his job, and certainly has flamed tensions, given fuel to those who want to bad mouth “thuggish kids,” “terrible parents.” “bad cops,” a “failed education system,” and cell-phones. It certainly tossed harm toward police community relations and perceptions of the benefits of police presence.

    Reply
    1. Bryan Caskey

      “What seemed a rush to physical force will probably cost the officer his job, and certainly has flamed tensions, given fuel to those who want to bad mouth “thuggish kids,” “terrible parents.” “bad cops,” a “failed education system,” and cell-phones.”

      Wait just a second. Who’s bad-mouthing cell phones? I mean, I’m okay with bad-mouthing all the other groups you listed, but let’s leave the iPhone out of it. :)

      Reply
          1. Doug Ross

            True, but good parents respond differently to the butthead behavior than bad parents do. That’s how you prevent it from becoming a pattern of bad behavior,

            If your kid screws up and you blame the teacher, the school system, society, etc. you are establishing a mindset that will continue for a long time.

            Reply
          2. Barry

            Not the issue – and I suspect you know that. It really goes without saying (or at least I thought so) that children can exhibit bad, or unlawful behavior from any family structure, or family environment.

            of course studies also are pretty clear that stable home environment produce better outcomes.

            However, we are talking specifically about homes where even the parents show a disrespectful attitude toward teachers and school leadership.

            Reply
  13. Mark Stewart

    Apple has done serious harm to its reputation with iOS 8 and especially iOS 9 and all its bug (non)fix updates. It still isn’t a stable platform. It isn’t a VW thing yet, but Apple seems a bit lost these days.

    If Android could get the carriers and the handset makers to delete their crapware I might seriously consider going back to the little green bot.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m gonna have to just go ahead and disagree with you there, Mark.

      I disliked some past upgrades — I had to buy a new phone after upgrading to 7, because it slowed down my old iPhone 4 too much. Then 8 caused me to lose my Photo Stream feature, which I hated (I liked viewing pics I took with my phone on the iPad).

      But I’m happy with 9. Before that upgrade, I was having to kill apps daily because no matter what I did, I kept running out of room. 9 fixed that and miraculously created more than 10 gigs of space I hadn’t had before. And while it doesn’t work the same as before, I can now view, almost immediately, phone photos on my iPad.

      It’s the best upgrade I’ve experienced…

      Reply
  14. Brad Warthen Post author

    This has been a good discussion, y’all. Everyone’s honestly searching for answers, and there is a welcome lack of pat answers and black-and-white judgments.

    The whole point of the blog is to provide a place for discussions such as that to take place, so it’s gratifying…

    Reply
    1. Barry

      Noticed how Todd Rutherford always seems to be the family attorney in situations like this?

      Are they calling him, or is he calling them?

      I also noticed how it went from the student having a bruise or two but all witnesses reporting no need for medical attention at the scene – to now back and other soft tissue injuries when the attorney gets involved.

      Funny how that works.

      Reply
      1. Kathryn Fenner

        What happens is that someone gets a reputation in a community for representing people in certain matters–being the go-to person, at the right price, no doubt, and when you get in that kind of trouble, better call Todd, say.
        A plug here for Alex Postic, as good a criminal lawyer as they come, and more affordable since he doesn’t advertise. Very decent guy!

        Reply
        1. Barry

          I suspect that is the case – I suspect the family got some advice to call him.

          Wasn’t surprised to see him on the cable news shows last night either.

          Was also interesting seeing the other female involved in this telling the news shows that the officer was known as “Officer Slam” and that he “slammed pregnant women” and such stuff. That’s some strong allegations against an officer. I sure hope her family can back that type of stuff up.

          Lott addressed that today in his presser stating that there was nothing like that in his record and school leadership had never complained about him- not even once. He also noted he had a lot of support from the students at Spring Valley.

          Reply
  15. Kathryn Fenner

    And the Sheriff has now fired the deputy.
    I guess I appreciate that he was only seeing the video when he was in Chicago (when this happened). For everyone who wanted the deputy fired immediately, there was someone else who thinks he was totally justified, as far as I can see.
    I agree with Bryan’s analysis on his blog. The bottom line is that there was plenty of blame and justification to go around, but the deputy crossed the line when he dragged the girl across the floor.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Here’s what I want to know, and would have asked Leon had I been at the presser: Why go straight to the FBI? Why not invite SLED in?

      Yeah, I know, even though he’s my twin and all, Leon may not be as enamored of subsidiarity as I am. But why immediately buy into the cliche that NO ONE in SC can be fair and objective about this; we have to bring in the feds?

      As Harry said way up above: “SC seems to be the one state that has reacted to most of the police excessive force revelations in a sound manner – prosecuting and disciplining the officers involved.” Leon’s immediate firing of this deputy demonstrates that — unless it just demonstrates a Pilatesque desire to wash his hands, and I don’t think that’s the case.

      I would have given the SC system a chance to work. If the feds wanted to do a civil rights investigation on a parallel track, nobody’s stopping them.

      But I just don’t get why, in this case and previous ones, Leon doesn’t want to turn to SLED…

      Reply
      1. Barry

        I answered this in the other topic but

        1) I would bet he got advice from the major and county council people to skip straight to the FBI – just a hunch.

        Reply
  16. Scout

    I am really late here, but having read through the comments, I mostly agree with Norm.

    Here are the questions that occur to me. I work for Aiken County Public Schools. The policy for teachers is you don’t touch a child unless they are creating a situation where they are a danger to themself or others – i.e. there is a risk of physical harm occurring if you don’t intervene – and even then you only are allowed to touch the child if you have received Crisis Prevention Institute training (CPI) which teaches de-escalation techniques and physical restraints, which are only to be used as a last resort. Each school has a team of at least 5-6 people trained. If you have not received that training, you push the call back button and the team comes to you. Meanwhile, you get the rest of the kids out of the way.

    So why is the standard different for law enforcement officers in schools? Refusing to surrender a cell phone does not constitute a physical danger to self or others. It is conceivable that different standards would apply when actual crimes have been committed, but what was the crime here?

    If there is a different standard and the officer was within bounds based on that standard, whose decision was it to turn this incident over to law enforcement? I would suspect it was the administrator’s and in my opinion it was a bad one. I don’t think open defiance or refusing to surrender a cell phone rises to the level of needing law enforcement. Teachers have to have strategies to deal with defiance and refusal. It’s part of the job. There are ways to keep things low key and impose consequences, while continuing to teach and trying to draw the child back in to participating and being engaged. You have to be willing to let some things go if the trade off is getting them back on track. After all, that is supposed to be the goal. If your tendency as a teacher is to make everything a tit-for-tat power struggle, I suspect less learning will happen in your classroom.

    A defiant child sitting calmly in a desk is not a crisis.

    Reply
    1. Barry

      ok- this student wasn’t sitting quietly. From what I have heard through the student grapevine – the student was aggressively arguing with very bad language to the teacher, then the assistant principal.

      The narrative that the student was minding her own business until the teacher started arguing with her- or having a problem with her is not close to correct in this case. The student was causing a big disturbance in the class and causing a vocal problem, and wouldn’t stop- and refused repeated requests from the teacher and assistant principal.

      The assistant principal called for the officer. The officer didn’t just walk in on his own. He was asked to come in and remove the student from the classroom. When he came in, he tried to have a conversation with the student and told her she had to leave the classroom- he requested this several times- and she refused.

      We know what happened after that.

      Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        Thanks for those details, Barry. It’s too bad Richland 2 has probably put the teacher on notice to not speak publicly because of the potential lawsuits. It would be very helpful to hear her side of the story to set the record straight and maybe defuse some of the wild assumptions that are floating around. My guess is this was a very disruptive kid who unfortunately ended up in a situation with an excessively aggressive cop who went too far in his response.

        Reply
      2. Scout

        Are you suggesting that the verbally belligerent behavior justifies the officer’s actions?

        We don’t know what happened before the video, but at the start of the video she was not being verbally disruptive or belligerent. She may well have been prior to this. I don’t at all dispute that, but I still feel that even in that case, the physical response of the officer was inappropriate for a purely verbal infraction. I have to wonder how the way the teacher handled it influenced the belligerent response – my point was there are ways that teachers can handle things that either minimize that response or escalate it. Still there are times when you can do everything as by the book as possible and its just in that kid to be belligerent that day. Maybe this was such a day. There are also times you do make the wrong decision and inadvertently escalate the situation. I have certainly done it before. I’m not trying to demonize the teacher. I get that it happens. Teachers are human. But even in those cases, this outcome is not expected or ok or the norm.

        So however it happened – you have a verbally disruptive defiant student – what then?

        Was the decision to call in law enforcement warranted? Once called, were the officer’s actions warranted? I think these are important questions. In either case, as Norm has suggested, why wasn’t the classroom emptied as one of the first steps?

        We don’t know what happened before the video, but just looking at the video, one (of many things) troubling about it is the officer initiates the physical contact. He invades her physical space and touches her on the shoulder. Her (possibly reflective) reaction to that seems to be what initiates the negative chain of events.

        Do officers get de-escalation training? In CPI training being aware of a child’s personal space is a key part of the training. Especially for kids that may have abuse in their past, being touched or having their personal space invaded can be a huge trigger.

        I’d hope that officers would know stuff like that.

        Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          I don’t think anyone is suggesting that what the officer did was correct from the time he put his hands on the student. But the officer did not enter the scene until called by an administrator who was called by the teacher. To follow your theory then the teacher and administrator each did the wrong thing. Wouldn’t we have to assume she was being verbally disruptive and belligerent to reach that point? Or do you assume the teacher and administrator (who are supposedly trained professionals when it comes to dealing with students) both ignored their training?

          The student created the situation. The officer went way too far in his response.

          Reply
          1. Scout

            Actually Doug, I think we might agree for once. I never disputed that the officer only came when the administrator called him. And I do agree that where it went wrong is when the officer initiated physical contact.

            I don’t have enough information to know if the teacher and administrator each did the wrong thing. I would be more tempted to question the administrator of the two. I would hope that verbally disruptive students could be managed by the teacher and/or administrators using deescalation techniques and sound classroom management practices, but I understand sometimes that is not the case. I still tend to think law enforcement is an extreme response to a purely verbal disruption – and that was presumably the administrator’s decision. I still tend to think the verbal disruption could have been diminished if the audience was removed – and that could have been done without law enforcement, by either the teacher or the administrator.

            Those are my observations. But hindsight is twenty twenty, especially when you are not in the middle of the situation. What is clear is the officer acted inappropriately. I think, maybe, we agree on that.

            Reply
  17. Pat

    I just skimmed many of the comments here, so if this was mentioned, forgive me. A lawyer (the student’s lawyer?) said the student is an orphan assigned to foster care. Who knows what is going on with the child? There has to be much more to this girl and this situation than we could possibly know.
    It is regrettable that the SRO was called. I really don’t think the SRO should be used in this way. His/her main job should be to maintain a presence in keeping the school a safe place to learn. I appreciate that the Sherrif will be having this discussion with school administration.

    Reply
  18. Brad Warthen Post author

    Here’s a statement Mia McLeod put out about the incident.

    Two observations: 1. This is actually pretty restrained, for her. Not over-the-top the way many of her missives are, 2. I’m not sure what she’s on about when she says the girl in the video is being “demonized” and that she “seems to have garnered the most criticism, hatred and disdain.” Really? She must be listening to some people I haven’t heard from.

    But anyway, here’s her statement:

    As the news of what happened on Monday at Spring Valley High School continued to unfold, I found myself wondering who this teenaged girl is and why this small chapter of her journey erupted so violently, thrusting Columbia, South Carolina onto the world’s stage for the third time in three months.

    Ironically, her alleged misbehavior isn’t even captured on tape, but seems to have garnered the most criticism, hatred and disdain. Why is that? She’s a teenager. If she were behaving badly, I’m not condoning that, but it’s certainly not uncommon for kids her age. Anybody who has teenagers knows that disrespect, defiance, disruption and rebellion are typical, albeit temporary traits during those years. It doesn’t make them criminals. If so, a lot more of us would have records.

    But this teenaged girl is being demonized, ostracized and sadly, criminalized before we even know or care about who she is or the details of her journey. As a mother of two Richland Two students, watching folks malign this (or any) child before we even know or assess all of the facts is just as despicable as the videotape.

    Maybe life has dealt her some pretty hard blows from which she has yet to recover. Perhaps she has nobody to advocate for her. It’s possible that she has already been brutalized, victimized or traumatized by those who were supposed to protect her. Could she have a learning disability or “special needs” that would warrant additional consideration?

    Do we know? Do we care? Doesn’t it matter?

    What’s the school or district policy concerning student disciplinary issues and infractions? Surely, it’s not to enlist the help of a School Resource Officer (SRO) for verbal, non-violent offenses or to violently remove a student from the classroom, unless he or she poses a threat to classmates or others.

    And while this video doesn’t begin to capture a disruptive, defiant student, it does capture an unarmed, seemingly quiet one, as “Officer Slam” brutally takes her down like a hard-core criminal in the presence of her peers, while her teacher and administrator patiently watch.

    Why was Law Enforcement even asked to intervene—let alone allowed to arrest and criminalize this 16-year old girl and the only classmate who had the courage to come to her aid? Why was the teacher allowed to return to his classroom, while the school administrator was immediately placed on leave? Who’s responsible for classroom management and discipline? Surely not the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

    If she had been escorted out of the classroom in a civilized, decent and appropriate manner, or counseled and disciplined after class, would she still have been arrested? Restoring order shouldn’t require the degradation, humiliation and castigation of a child or a school-sanctioned captive audience.

    Does a 16 year-old even have the capacity to fully understand the magnitude of her actions—let alone cause his? A seasoned officer purposely positions himself over a student’s desk, slams her to the ground and throws her across the room, like she’s nothing. And we want to criticize and condemn her actions?

    Not happening.

    This child is neither an animal nor a criminal. She’s a human-being, who’s deserving of so much more compassion and consideration than she has been given. To have been arrested, suspended and charged with crimes after the video was recorded, only adds insult to injury.

    “Why didn’t she just do what they told her?” “Why did he run when the officer told him to stop?”

    Here’s the deal. If disrespecting authority was a criminal offense or running scared, a justification for murder…we would all be locked up or dead.

    I’m not attempting to absolve anyone of responsibility or accountability. In fact, both have yet to be evenly appropriated. But recklessly blaming and making assumptions about this student, while justifying the use of excessive, unnecessary force inflicted upon her, is almost as unconscionable as the violence itself.

    I agree with Sheriff Lott about one thing. “This video is just a snapshot, not the whole picture.” Let’s remember that when we feel compelled to bash and blame a verbally-defiant child for the vicious, violent actions of an adult.

    There’s no justification for what this officer did to her on Monday. If she were his daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife or dog, he’d be in jail right now.

    And if she were my child, I would be too…

    Reply
    1. Bryan Caskey

      Wow.

      Is her statement from spoken remarks made extemporaneously, or was this a written statement? It’s so full of speculation, straw-man arguments, incorrect conclusions, and obvious bias, I would hope (for her sake) that this wasn’t a written statement. That at least would give her an excuse.

      This statement reads like she’s some drunk person who’s yelling at a parking meter.

      My conclusion from reading this statement: We’ve got to stop electing people like this.

      Reply
      1. Mark Stewart

        I liked her first paragraph, a good set-up. Otherwise, I think I agree with Brad; this is restrained from what I have read by Mia in other PR blasts. It does read more like a FB post – although suggesting it is similar to a drunk person yelling at a parking meter seems like a stretch, Bryan.

        I do agree with her general outlook on this; but also believe the statement could use a heavy redraft as it is inflammatory and therefore not helpful to the counter-argument that she is trying to make; which seems to be that all wrongs are not equal, and adults should act as adults regardless of a child’s outbursts. She is correct on that basic premise.

        Reply
        1. Bryan Caskey

          What is frustrating to me (as a lawyer) is that there is a legitimate point to be made, but she fails to make it in a competent manner. She’s a poor advocate for her position.

          Reply
      2. Barry

        Mia adopted the “Officer Slam” catch-phrase that one of the students was putting out on cable news.

        That could be true, but from everything I’ve read by other students that knew him- including other African American students that he coached – they have good things to say about him.

        Is there a chance that some of the more “disciplinary challenged” students have one opinion of him, and the students that didn’t have disciplinary problems at the school view him differently?

        If he indeed had such a nickname, why would the school leadership allow him to continue at their school? Spring Valley has a very diverse administration. The principal is African -American – and has a terrific reputation as a leader and a person from everything I hear), and at last one of the main administrators that oversees discipline at the school is an African-American female.

        It’s too bad someone like Mia that’s supposed to represent a variety of people doesn’t acknowledge the possibility that calling someone “Officer Slam” may actually be slander instead of factual. (Even an MSNBC host made this point regarding slander when interviewing the student witness who has been calling him that and accusing him of throwing pregnant women on the ground).

        Reply
        1. Mark Stewart

          It was not helpful for a legislator to take this approach and use this tone.

          It’s another example of why, on the whole, I believe lawyers as a profession make better politicians than people with other life backgrounds.

          Reply
          1. Mark Stewart

            On the other hand, Todd Rutherford’s representation of both girls is a good example of the caveat to this idea.

            While it isn’t a conflict of interest per se to represent the girls as a legislator, it certainly doesn’t give the right impression to have someone out shilling a story that is counter-productive to his constituents best interests as a community looking to come together and not be ripped apart by inflammatory insinuations.

            This episode has opened up an important opportunity to address some challenging school issues; but those ought to be addressed calmly and with an open mind. Hopefully, that is what is happening inside Richland 2.

            Reply
            1. Barry

              Rutherford always look so angry – even when responding to a subject as the minority leader of the house.

              almost every picture I see of him- or every time he’s on the news shows- he has a very angry look to him.

              I realize things don’t always go his way, but he’s a leader in the General Assembly. Smile a little bit. Heck, fake it a little.

              Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *