School security guards in Palmdale, CA have been caught on camera assaulting a 16-year-old girl and breaking her arm after she spilled some cake during lunch and left some crumbs on the floor after cleaning it up.
The incident occurred last week at Knight High School in Palmdale and was caught on a cell phone camera by another pupil who was then also assaulted by the security guards.
The girl was black (in case anyone didn’t know that already).
The students are organising (possibly have organised, I’m a little confused about dates and times) a walk-out. Check out Oh No a WoC PhD for more information about what you can do.
I think what’s really important about this incident, is that while it is a horrific example it is also the inevitable result of a culture of security in schools . Yes be outraged that a girl’s wrist was broken for not being able to clean up the cake she dropped, but it would have been just as outrageous if she’d responded to the request to clean up the cake by saying ‘fuck you’ and walking off and the same thing had happened. It’s not enough just to object to the extremes of a system that attempts to controls students for every minute they’re at school, we have to object to the whole system. As
Grace Lee Boggs argues that youths of color are “opting out” rather than “dropping out” of school–that is, rather than mindlessly dropping out of school to engage in a life of debauchery and sin–they are making a conscious choice to leave a violent and prison like atmosphere that labels them as “problems” from the moment they enter into the system.
Why would anybody want to go to school in a place like this? And who the hell are *we* to honestly believe that the “war” taking place in our schools today (schools are war zones, after all), is not a war between administration/security gaurds and the students?
I read about this at brownfemipower, feministing and Lenin’s Tomb (and my reaction was very similar to Lenin’s).
It’s also at Ginmar’s, with a disturbing note about what happened to the girl’s mother:
This is the same kind of authoritarian security-culture garbage that happened to me and a number of colleagues and friends in New York City — do anything that’s seen even remotely as challenging to authority, whether it’s not cleaning up the last few crumbs of something you spilled, or taking pictures and video with your cellphone, asking that someone who assaulted your daughter be arrested, asking the police or security forces any questions at all, and you’ll be thrown down on your stomach and arrested. Here in New York, the same kind of police-driven escalation resulted in more arrests — the fact that anyone dared question or ask the police what was going on made them more incensed and pissed off, until finally a dozen people were pepper sprayed and/or violently arrested.
Everyone needs to wake up. We’re fostering an atmosphere of jackbooted thugs where nobody is allowed to watch the watchers, and anyone who doesn’t do exactly what they say can be jailed. All because “security” is paramount above any other concern, supposedly, but obviously the situation is far safer for some than others — and even your average white middle-class straight guy on the street is afraid to say anything challenging lest he get beaten up too. Meanwhile, macho idiots on the internet who watch a lot of COPS feel perfectly comfortable saying shit like “mess with 5-0 and you’re going down!!” because cops, even security guards, are glamorized as any-means-necessary badasses. Even when it means breaking a girl’s wrist and arresting her mom. Pardon me, I need to go vomit.
(schools are war zones, after all)
What schools would those be?
The one that this occurred in certainly seems like the security forces are out of control. I have to wonder what else is out of control in that school – drug sales and use, sexual activity, rapes, assaults? The school board seems out of control as well, if they are suspending someone from their job for what seems to me to be an entirely reasonable request. Someone seems to think that it’s more important to protect their job and their procedures than the children in the schools.
But I’m curious to know – how prevalent is this? Over the last few years I’ve been in the local schools in my area, both middle school and high schools, about a dozen times. I haven’t seen one security person. Anywhere. At my local middle school you are theoretically supposed to press a buzzer, verbally identify yourself, and then wait to be buzzed in. But the door just opens; they don’t seem to be using the system. And at all the local high schools, there is usually, but not always, a parent volunteer (usually a middle-aged woman in lousy shape that I could definitely outmuscle and probably outrun) just asks you who you are, why you’re there, looks at your drivers’ license, and then gives you a name badge. This would be in high schools that have anywhere from 1200 to 3500 kids in them.
There’s no war in any of these schools. Yes, this is the southwest Chicago suburbs. Incomes average at or above the national median. Racial balance is majority Caucasian. You have occasional fights and drinking and dope being smoked and sex, but it’s not a huge problem.
The statement “schools are war zones” gives me pause. The writer makes a blanket statement that all schools are war zones. Now, if my kid was in a school where a girl got her arm broken for not cleaning up some crumbled cake properly, I’d certainly think that school was a war zone. But what’s more typical across the country? That school, or the ones around me?
I think what’s really important about this incident, is that while it is a horrific example it is also the inevitable result of a culture of security in schools.
Hm. What does that mean? What is a “culture of security”? What is there about it that makes such a crime as this (forget “incident”, I say it’s a crime) inevitable?
Men With Guns And Handcuffs like to use them.
If you put lots of them in a school, you get a security culture: even if the guards were originally supposed to “just” protect students from being assaulted, or were supposed to cut don on crack sales, they end up being used to enforce shit like “clean up that cake.”
Security guards are often pretty scary people anyway. And when you put them in a situation where they are dealing with people and situations that are minor, it’s a problem.
In a perfect world, the SCARY parts of security guards (like to use their handcuffs) are theoretically balanced by the good parts (stop drug dealers). But what about here? Why use a big man who likes to feel powerful to enforce… cake cleanup?
this really was inevitable. Which makes it all the more horrible.
We have learned time and time again that people who are in positions of power tend to abuse them (Milgram experiment, anyone? Stanford Prison experiment?) It is unconscionable that we would allow our children to be treated such.
Here, it’s police officers and probation officers(even though about 1-2% of students are on probation) being assigned to provide security at high schools. Students have gotten noses broken, been handcuffed to chairs in principals’s offices for several hours and been peppersprayed causing asthma attacks. Some schools have fights. Several of those which haven’t have had the worst problems with use of abusive force by police officers.
The deputy who broke the student’s nose(which resulted in a law suit settled out of court) was portrayed as one with a clean record without complaints. It took a week to find six more complainants and oh if only it were true about his record. He had been investigated for domestic violence, brandishing a firearm in an argument, crashing into a wall in a DUI crash and probably had his own conference room at the Internal Affairs Division. After he assaulted a PTA vice-president for having a baseball bat in her car(as her son played little league), his days became numbered and he was eventually sent back out on patrol.
This is probably why. Here, it’s predominantly the schools where at least 51% of the students are poor and/or of color. The police officers and their guns including ammunition are largely funded by a DOJ grant called the “Safe Schools, Healthy Students” or something like that. The police officer who worked in a high school explained it to me. Of course, he’s in prison doing hundreds of years for child molestation and rape in two states. But it’s ironic because Columbine type shootings which mostly involve White male middle-class students were used to sell these programs to predominantly Black and Latino middle and high schools here. Even elementary schools, where one of them had a line budget item of $1,500 for ammunition. For some reason, a fatal officer involved shooting of a young Black woman who was shot at 28 times was used by the school board to sell the program as well.
Security guards are supposed to increase student safety, but I have yet to see them actually do so. Much more often the security themselves are the hazard to student safety – whether it’s the direct assault here, or as in my second high school, where the security guard was also the school drug dealer.
I appreciate your input, Sailorman. You make valid points. But it was Maia’s posting and I’d like to know what she means by “culture of security”.
I once opined on this blog that we should make sure that schools are safe for their students even if it meant putting a cop in every classroom. I still feel that way. But someone like that would have to have a clean record. They’d also need to understand (through both training and personality) that dealing with kids is not the same as dealing with adults. Patience is needed. An understanding that kids are not always rational. I’ve lost my patience with kids in my Troop, but what I’ve found out is that is counter-productive. It just doesn’t work.
We need security guards. We need cops. We need “Men [and Women] With Guns And Handcuffs”. At least in some schools – again, the author presented that statement as an absolute, but I’m curious as to just how prevalent that is. The fact that some people are too ready to use them (or other kinds of physical force) is an excellent argument for making sure that you have the right people with guns and handcuffs in schools where they are needed. I don’t see that it demonstrates that you should not have such people in schools at all.
Crimes like this get in the press, and deservedly so. The perpetrators need to be punished. The people who failed to properly supervise these programs and the people in them deserve sanctions, and the processes need to be fixed. But how much good is also being done? How many crimes have been prevented? How many bullies haven’t been able to beat up kids? How many rapes have been stopped?
What’s the alternative? How do we stop this kind of thing and still make sure that schools are safe?
My proposal is to get rid of mandatory attendance at age 12-13. If your school is unsafe (whether because of other kids, or because of security guards), and your parents will let you, stay home.
The difficulty with that approach, Sam, however appealing to this leave-me-the-fuck-alone libertarian, is that the kids who would end up staying home are also very likely the kids that society cannot afford to leave uneducated.
More school choices would be my suggestion. If school X is so dangerous because of a small group of uncontrollable students, then let the parents of the kids who want to learn take their kids somewhere else.
the kids who would end up staying home are also very likely the kids that society cannot afford to leave uneducated.
Possibly–even likely–true. But requiring them to go to schools where they do not think they are learning anything/are at risk of physical attack hardly counts as educating them.
Yeah, Sam, I’m afraid stopping mandatory attendance at ages 12 – 13 would harm the very kids that most need help. Whether we have public or private schools, whether schools are just government-funded and supervised or are also government-operated, you are going to have security problems. Home schooling is a valid option but is not one that’s going to be able to be effectively implemented in a day and age where there are so many single-parent homes or homes where both parents work.
Obviously we don’t want armed thugs operating under the color of law providing security in schools. One way to deal with that is to in fact get rid of the thugs and ensure that security is provided by trained professionals with the ability (both professional and personal) to deal with kids. Another way is to have effective non-physical discipline in the schools. Then there’s the alternative of separating the trouble-makers from the non-troublemakers, temporarily for initial and not-so-serious offenses and permanently for those exhibiting more criminal or incorrigible behavior (with treatment for those kids who have some kind of mental disease process going on). That can obviously be abused – but then so can every other alternative.
When, exactly, did young adults and children became big scary enemies that we needed to tase, bloody, and break?
Sometimes, what you expect is what you get. You expect kids to be your enemies? They will act like your enemies.
. If school X is so dangerous because of a small group of uncontrollable students, then let the parents of the kids who want to learn take their kids somewhere else.
Schools do not become dangerous because of ‘a small group of uncontrollable students’–no such thing, unless the students in question are an armed gang and are holding the administration, teachers and police under an iron-fisted rule of fear. And school choice is a really shitty solution for people whose kids are not, shall we say, “marketable”. Every school wants to cater to the quiet, hard-working kid who gets all A’s. No school wants to take the special-needs kid who needs an IEP and extra time and money, or who has a physical disability that requires accomodation. The sought-after schools will have the luxury of telling those students to FOAD, and they’ll be stuck in the war zones that take everybody because they see themselves as holding pens.
It occurs to me that in areas like mine, the school administrations are more likely to deal with boys who are causing disciplinary problems by telling the parents that their kids may have ADHD, and that either they take their kid to a doctor and get him treated (drugged) for it, or they’ll put him into a program. That has the added advantage to the school system of throwing the expense on the parents’ health insurance, rather than the school’s security budget.
Not that there’s no such thing as ADHD. But I and my fellow Scouters are convinced that there’s a lot of … shall we say … convenient misdiagnosis.
Except that if the school admits your child has ADHD, that opens the door for an IEP, and then the school has to comply with its IDEA requirements. Generally, the administrators would prefer to eat glass.
And you don’t even want to know how they deal with girls who have behavior problems.
IEP? IDEA? Sorry, I don’t know what those are.
How DO they deal with girls who have behavior problems? They don’t demand that they be pumped up with drugs as well?
IDEA = Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (IEP is the educational ‘plan’ developed for a particular kid.) The shortish version is that IDEA requires schools to provide a free and appropriate public education for special ed kids. If your kid is “just acting up” or has a problem that *doesn’t* mean IDEA applies, then the school is free to treat your kid like any other kid. “Putting them in a program” may mean that they have to spend extra time and money, and we all know how much schools just love that.
Girls don’t have a cottage industry of professional sexists like Sax or Gurian telling schools their behavior is just part of their genetic makeup. They also, in my experience, get far more negative reaction to being highly active, ‘oppositional’ or otherwise uncooperative; not only are they causing trouble in class, they’re not acting the way girls are supposed to act.
I’m not familiar with the work of Sax and Gurian. If they are trying to tell the schools that boys are different than girls and that the schools should adapt their teaching methods to their subjects rather than drug boys up to adapt them to the existing teaching methods, great. If that’s a problem for the girls, then perhaps they need an advocate or two as well.
They also, in my experience, get far more negative reaction to being highly active, ‘oppositional’ or otherwise uncooperative; not only are they causing trouble in class, they’re not acting the way girls are supposed to act.
What’s your experience? I thought schools had improved a great deal in that regard. My daughter was very active in high school, but her old high school is very accepting of girls like that. Also, she was a star athlete and is pretty smart (she got a degree in Electrical Engineering, not exactly a “typical” female major).
With regards to IDEA and IEP, thanks for the info. I may have a reason to use it elsewhere. We have had a couple of kids in our Troop who are reasonably bright but have dyslexia. The local middle school (which is where we meet, as it happens) has given both the families a lot of hassle about putting together a plan for the kids and adapting their teaching methods. I wouldn’t be at alll surprised if money wasn’t part of it, which actually is pretty outrageous when I look at my property tax bill and all the construction they’ve been doing and and think about how much money is going through the place. The one has gone though school at this point, but the other is still at the middle school; I’ll talk to the parents.
Let me see if I understand your first paragraph: If there are consultants making money by convincing schools that the alternative to drugging boys is to give them a different education based on stereotypes of what all boys are (or at least ought to be) like, that’s fine, and if that harms girls, they need to get to get their own hired guns?
My experience is that schools and teachers vary enormously, but that there is no “well, you know how boys are” margin of error allowed for girls.
I would recommend the families in your Troop pick up a copy of Nolo’s book about IEPs, that they check online for info, and that they take a very aggressive (not hostile, just upfront) approach with the middle schools. They should also at least consult with a lawyer in their area who specializes in IDEA/IEP issues; chances are your acquaintances are not the first people this school has jacked around.
You misrepresent my first paragraph. If someone is proposing that teaching methods used in schools don’t work well for boys (I mean actual male children, not some stereotype) and that the methods need to be adapted to boys rather than adapting boys to the teaching methods, then great. By “if that’s a problem for girls”, I mean if the teaching methods used in schools are a problem for girls, then I would hope that someone should advocate changes for them as well. I did not mean “if the advocates for boys are causing problems for girls …”.
there is no “well, you know how boys are” margin of error allowed for girls.
The phrase “boys will be boys” has been misused to provide undeserved cover for anti-social acts by male youth. But there’s actual truth behind it. Girls have their own uniqueness as well that needs to be valued and developed, not used to pigeonhole them.
Thanks for the IDEA link. As far as the Nolo book goes, can you give me a reference for it? I have a carrying case of literature I bring to Scout meetings, I’ll get a copy and put it in there. My experiences leads me to suspect that Scouting ends up with a disproportionate number of kids who are not/do not respond quite as well as the “average” child to the teaching methods used in schools, and I’m sure I’ll have occasion to give it to someone.
Girls have their own uniqueness as well that needs to be valued and developed, not used to pigeonhole them.
You do realize the two portions of this sentence contradict one another, yes? The problem is exactly that instead of saying “these teaching methods do not work well for all children, you’re modeling how your classroom works on the Ideal Stereotypical Girl, you need to change that”, there are professional sexists who have a particular model of how a boy should be and want pink-and-blue segregated education. Never mind if that actually hurts boys with the soft bigotry of low expectations, or by shoving quieter, less active boys into a rough-and-tumble model.
Which goes back to my earlier point about how schools react to girls with learning disabilities. Classifying boys and girls by sex rather than behavior *is* pigeonholing them.
The new Nolo book on IEPs came out in February.
“these teaching methods do not work well for all children, you’re modeling how your classroom works on the Ideal Stereotypical Girl, you need to change that”
Hm. O.K. I can endorse that statement.
there are professional sexists who have a particular model of how a boy should be and want pink-and-blue segregated education.
Again, I haven’t read the works of the authors you referred to.
Never mind if that actually hurts boys with the soft bigotry of low expectations, or by shoving quieter, less active boys into a rough-and-tumble model.
I certainly do not endorse low academic or behavioral expectations for boys. My own son is currently a senior in Mechanical Engineering at a school well-known for excellence in that discipline (not the Institute, alas), and part of the reason he’s there was because my wife and I demanded that he put as much effort into academics as athletics. What I want are the development and implementation of better ways to help boys, and girls I should also say, meet high academic and behavioral expectations rather than drugging them or trying to fit them into a role that they cannot fulfill.
I myself was one of those “quieter, less active” boys. I’m a bit conflicted on this. I’m quite aware of the problems of trying to force all boys into a rough-and-tumble stereotype and do not advocate it. OTOH, I think I turned out better because my older brothers insisted on occasionally dragging me away from my books and getting me outside to play baseball and football with my peers and their older brothers, both from a physical viewpoint and because it taught me socialization and conflict resolution skills. I got banged up some, but that taught me that getting banged up some wasn’t the end of the world either.
Kate L., I was born 20 miles from Fenway Park and grew up listening to the Red Sox play some horrible baseball in the late 50’s and early 60’s between Curt Gowdy’s ads for Ballantine Ale and “Mabel – Black Label!” and “Shaefer is the one beer to have when you’re having more than one.” I did actually get to Fenway when I was 9 and 11. Then, when I was 14, the Impossible Dream happened when the Red Sox went from having finished in last place for years to winning the American League pennant in a 4-way pennant race that was not decided until 3 hours after the Red Sox had finished their last game of the season. That sunk the hook in too deep for removal without killing the patient. You can’t get NESN in Chicago, so I don’t get to listen to Don and Remy. I’ve given up on the announcers; when the game’s not on national TV I watch “Gameday” online. All I can say is that Fox better do a better job than TBS/TNT and not keep missing the first pitch of the inning because they don’t start and come back from the commercials soon enough. TNT/TBS missed outs that way.
OTOH, I think I turned out better because my older brothers insisted on occasionally dragging me away from my books and getting me outside to play baseball and football with my peers and their older brothers, both from a physical viewpoint and because it taught me socialization and conflict resolution skills. I got banged up some, but that taught me that getting banged up some wasn’t the end of the world either.
Don’t you think girls would benefit from this involvement in sports and learning conflict and resolution skills, too?
Absolutely. My daughter played softball, ice hockey and tennis in high school and played squash and softball in college.