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After South Carolina: Why I Support Cops in Schools
Teachers Deserve to Feel Safe in Schools
We Feel Sorry for the Arrested Student...but What About the Classmates and Teacher She Disrupted?
It looks bad, nobody can deny that: A large male police officer, white, is bodily manhandling a slim female high school student, black, while she is still in her desk. We see an instant intersection of controversial extremes: Race, gender, child, and law enforcement. A white person using force on a racial minority. A male using force against a female. An adult using force against a student. A police officer using force on a civilian.
In the aftermath of the viral videos coming out of a high school in South Carolina, America is appalled. Many believe that the officer, a sheriff's deputy working as a school resource officer, was completely in the wrong. He has been accused of racism, misogyny, brutality, and a slew of other things. The deputy has been fired, but the case appears far from closed: Additional video apparently shows the student striking the officer when he first touched her, and some law enforcement analysts believe that the officer's use of force was justified.
The local sheriff, despite removing the deputy from duty, says that the student deserves at least part of the blame. She refused to obey directives from both the classroom teacher and an assistant principal, prompting the school resource officer to be summoned. When he arrived, the girl refused his orders as well, even when she was warned that force would be used.
Outrageously, many commentators are calling for police officers to be removed from schools in the aftermath of South Carolina. They say that police should not be used for "classroom discipline," and that the tasks must fall solely to teachers and administrators. They also demand that teachers learn better "classroom management" and that teachers, administrators, and police officers be trained in "cultural competence."
Enough is enough.
I am a high school teacher, and I do not need "additional training" in classroom management. I do not need "cultural competency" training. Maybe, just maybe, students need a bit of training on how to act right. Very likely, so do many of their parents. I do not need to compromise on maintaining a safe and respectful classroom to accommodate students who feel that the rules do not apply to them.
No, your race or gender does not matter to me. If you can't act right, get gone. Get thee to McDonald's, Burger King, or hock your manual labor on job sites. You are not entitled to a high school diploma. You are not entitled to a passing grade. I refuse to allow you to freely misbehave and disrupt the students who want to learn.
As a teacher, my job is to teach. If you refuse to let me do my job, I will seek to have you removed from my classroom. I will ask you, politely, to behave. If your misbehavior persists, I will ask a second time. The third time, I will warn you that I will call an administrator. If you continue to disobey, I will call an administrator. When he or she arrives, you are now their responsibility. I will assist the administrator, but that individual is now in charge.
If you will not comply for the administrator, they should have every right to call in a higher authority on discipline. This has traditionally been, and should remain, a school-stationed police officer. The officer, and only the officer, has the right to use physical force to compel a student to comply in non-emergency situations.
When an unruly teen refuses to leave the classroom, what else can be done? He or she must be removed so that learning, the business of education, can continue. I will not lay a finger on a student. It is not my job and, frankly, I don't want to get sued to hell and back. It is not an administrator's job. It is the job of a sworn peace officer.
In South Carolina, though it did not look pretty, the officer did his job. The student refused to comply, so he used physical force to remove her. We may be upset because she was small and because she was a racial minority, but the officer did his job.
As a teacher, I worry that school resource officers will now hesitate to remove troublemakers from classrooms. I worry that there will be a chilling effect on enforcing student discipline and decorum. I worry that bad kids will be emboldened.
You may read this and furrow your brow, cursing that I, a teacher, could be so callous about "children." Well, I teach 18-year-old "children," many of whom stand over six feet tall and have played contact sports for a decade. Just today, I had a large student threaten another student with physical violence. You may view your own progeny as angels, but I have seen them at their worst.
I have no misconceptions about the damage many of these fully-grown "children" can cause if they get a full head of steam. I will defend myself and other students, if necessary. If a student lays a finger on me in anger, I will neutralize the threat.
Fortunately, most of my students are great. My Advanced Placement high school seniors are intelligent, mature, well-behaved, and ambitious. Most of my regular seniors are similarly great kids. A few, however, have few reservations about talking back to teachers, disrupting class, or picking on other students. When these bad apples go off, I want to know that I can get some backup quickly.
Until you've had to teach a class with some six-foot-three, two hundred fifty pound bad apples, don't talk about taking away my school resource officers.