Recently Ben Fields, a school resource officer from Columbia, South Carolina, made headlines for forcefully throwing a 16- year old female student across the room after she allegedly refused to leave her seat. From the video, it’s clear to me that the school resource officer used excessive force to restrain the student. However, in Brenda Wood’s commentary that has now gone viral, she claims that the incident isn’t as black and white as it appears. She wants to know what the student did to provoke the officer.
Ms. Wood states that the video only shows one side of what happened. She speculates that since the other students in the classroom were silent and not “oohing” and “aahing” at the altercation, the young lady must have done something to cause the officer to react the way that he did. (The students later reported that they were quiet because they were afraid). Based on the comments on the video, there are many people who believe the young lady provoked the situation.
Blame the victim much? I wonder if it had been a parent caught on tape dragging their child around like a rag doll, would it matter what the child did prior to being assaulted?
Even though Ms. Wood asserts that she believes that the officer involved used excessive force, most of what she says sounds like she is justifying the school resource officer’s behavior. For example, according to Ms. Wood, students today are out of control and disrespectful. They have no regard for authority and know that when they get aggressive, there’s nothing teachers can do about it. This is indeed the case in certain situations, but that does not make it OK for an adult to man-handle a child to get them to behave.
Just about the only point I agree with Ms. Wood on is that we need to address the disciplinary problems some schools are facing. For starters, we need to encourage teachers to be better classroom managers. Since when does a police officer need to intervene because a teacher can’t get a student to follow directions? According to Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, “[resource officers] aren’t supposed to be handling discipline issues. [They] are there to build relationships with students, teach them about the law and serve as another trusted adult they can turn to.”
It’s easy to scapegoat the children and blame the school’s disciplinary problems on them. However, as evidenced by the school resource officer in the video, the problem is also with the adults in charge. I’ve worked in three different schools and let me tell you, just as there are disrespectful students, there are also disrespectful teachers and support staff.
I’ve heard teachers yell and scream at students or dole out consequences far greater than the infraction calls for. Some teachers have gotten away from building relationships with their students and are quick to write them off because they are a behavior problem. They take their students’ behavior personal and put their hurt feelings above that of making sure the student gets a quality education.
Now don’t get me wrong. Being a teacher is no easy task and there are a myriad of reasons why there is a break down in the relationship that some schools have with their students. However, blaming the students and not acknowledging how everyone involved contributes to the problem will only yield ineffective solutions.
We can’t complain that kids are disrespectful and out of control and then in the same breath justify those same behaviors in an adult who disrespects a child by humiliating her in front of her peers by losing control when he can’t get her to do what he wants. Someone has to set the example.
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