Cops in the Classroom: How Pathetic Are We?

There is a simple reason that police officers walk the halls of nearly half of all the schools in this country: ignorant fear. In the post-Columbine world, the abject terror of something so heinous occurring caused legislators to shit themselves around the country and demand a tough law enforcement presence to deal with any serious incident.

We didn't do a goddamn thing about the guns. But we sure as shit want the kids to know that they don't have control. So we turned schools into another place where the power of the state is enacted on the bodies of teens, disproportionately non-white, in even the most minor of cases.

Anyone who went to school before the hysteria about "safety" can tell you stories about fights or kids being assholes. Hell, let the Rude Pundit tell you one. In middle school in south Louisiana, in a school that was probably a third African American and the rest were white, with a few stray other non-whites, he had a teacher, Ms. Musgrave, and a black kid in the class, Darren, wasn't listening to her when she told him to stop talking. She confronted him and told him to be quiet. He looked her dead in the eyes and said, "You ugly." Ms. Musgrave, whose son had recently died, burst into tears and ran out of the room. No one laughed. No one was able to take out their goddamn, motherfucking phones and film it.  The Rude Pundit told Darren that he was a jerk, and they got into a fight in the classroom that was broken up by a couple of the other kids.

Now here's the end of the story that blows the Rude Pundit's mind every time he thinks about it. He and Darren were sitting outside after the fight, waiting for the principal. Darren told him, "I'm gonna take this. It's my fault. I'm gonna tell them you didn't do nothing." The Rude Pundit asked why he'd do that. Darren said, "Because I get in trouble all the time. You don't. You're gonna do something with your life. I'm gonna take this." And he did. He took blame for it all when, really, the fight was something we shared. He was in and out of trouble after that, but he did graduate from high school a few years down the road.

If this had been today, Darren would have been confronted by a School Resource Officer, who is a cop who sometimes gets off smacking around kids, and probably arrested if he didn't listen. After the fight, both he and the Rude Pundit might have been taken to jail. And for what? For the usual teenage bullshit that every school everywhere has.

Shit, let's not even talk about the fact that pretty much every guy in school carried a pocket knife. It was Louisiana. We might need our knives to skin a squirrel.

The actions of Deputy Ben Field, who slammed around a teenage girl in a classroom in South Carolina before cuffing and arresting her, have no basis in anything we might rationally discuss as belonging in a school. It doesn't matter that, as the sheriff of Richland County said, the girl hit the officer as he was tipping her chair backwards. Who the fuck cares?

The point is that the officer shouldn't have been there in the first place. He shouldn't have been in the school. How many incidents does it take to prove this? Shit, earlier this month, in Texas, a boy was choked by a cop in his school for being "non-compliant" with the demands of the officer.  Fuck that officer. Fuck his demands. It's a school. If a teacher or administrator isn't telling the student what to do, then no one else should have any goddamn right to do so. That schools have abdicated their responsibility to teach kids how to behave through regular disciplinary actions is pathetic to the point of absurdity.

We can look at a myriad of things that have made schools into tightly-controlled zones of paranoia and overzealous punishment. We can blame zero tolerance policies that get kids suspended or expelled for having ibuprofen or a birth control pill on campus. We can blame asshole parents who will bitch and threaten to sue if their precious snowflake is in any way treated poorly by a teacher or another student. We can blame politicians who want their constituents to be catfuck crazy with fear about What Might Happen.  We can blame the bullshit racism that permeates so much of our policing of black kids.

Essentially, though, what we really are doing is Gitmo-izing the teenagers. We are telling them that they have no rights. They must obey or they can be taken out. They cannot act out like fucking teenagers do. Frankly, the saddest part of the video of the girl in South Carolina is that everyone in that room didn't get up and try to stop the cop (the one girl who protested was also arrested).

That means that they have internalized the oppression. That's their education in a nutshell.