School kids are the latest victims of aggressive and unnecessary police overreaction
Tell me you’re not alarmed by the growing number of school children – all too often emotionally and behaviorally disturbed – being arrested, cuffed and frogmarched from schools to waiting patrol cars. And for the most trivial reasons imaginable. Tell me.
Michael Snyder in 19 Crazy Things That School Children Are Being Arrested For In America detailed a variety of abuses that have become all too commonplace. I defy you to not be leveled by the incomprehensible sense of overreaction that is the common thread in all of these incidents. The range of infractions can only be considered ridiculous. What would barely have earned a note to a parent in our more rational days of yore, today all too often results in a trip to the station house.
The latest arrest of two disabled children in Kentucky who were shackled and traumatized for school misbehavior has caused many to focus for the first time on a problem that’s plagued the American school system for years. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit on their behalf seeking to declare the officer’s handcuffing of the children unconstitutional and a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
I am a licensed practicing lawyer and former prosecutor who has watched our criminal justice system morph and devolve into a system that would make Draco blush. It has become all too often the case for news accounts to be flush with references to children arrested for such trivial acts as burping in class, doodling on a desk and throwing paper airplanes. I have taken the liberty of providing my own indictment of this insanity in my podcast on the subject.
But let’s look at the bigger picture. Children are being habituated into a system that breeds and inspires learned helplessness where they are overcome and overwhelmed by disciplinary systems of incomprehensibly extensive violations that they ultimately submit to and refuse to even avoid. And why shouldn’t the behavior matrix that we adults are learning daily not be initiated early in the farm system of indoctrination, the American school system? And throw into the mix the particular devastation that these police encounters have on a child who already suffers from emotional and behavioral disability and the result can be – and often is – catastrophic.
We are a system that has yielded rights and liberties to the prison industrial complex. You must certainly have read the statistic which shows that the United States is 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prison population. With the militarization of police, the systematic erosion of Posse Comitatus along with 1,033 programs that in some cases equipped local police forces with surplus military equipment and gear which turns Mayberry into Fallujah, Americans have misinterpreted police and military presence for law and order and security.
In my years of practicing criminal law, I can safely say that I’ve never seen the case where even a mature adult did not find the arrest process harrowing and traumatizing. Just imagine what that process is like through the prism of a child who may suffer from the inability to process cause and effect consequence dynamics. Why, instead of calling a parent or a school nurse, are schools opting instead to call 911 to have a uniformed cop, often aggressive and undertrained when it comes to emotionally disturbed children, do what he knows best, i.e. to arrest, cuff and transport.
There is yet another aspect that is problematic and that is the fact that instead of Americans become sensitized to this problem described, we’re becoming likewise habituated and conditioned by the frequency of these events. They’re not having the shocking effect that they should have. Instead of these cases inspiring a call to action and a demand that policies change, especially when dealing with the exceptionally vulnerable, we’re chalking them up to the changing times and a more authoritarian zeitgeist.
No one is suggesting ceding authority to unruly ruffians or to embrace a Blackboad Jungle classroom dystopia. But before we saddle children – especially the emotionally vulnerable – with arrest and criminal records that will threaten future employment and educational opportunities let’s try something this country needs desperately to reinvest in: Thinking.
Lionel is an Emmy Award winning legal analyst and news decoder. His Twitter handle is @lionelmedia.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT