It’s easy for me to second-guess; I found out long ago that hindsight is 20/20 but after I received a horrifying email from a teacher in the Hamilton County public school system last week, I firmly believe our communities’ needs are not being met, much less our society in general. I do not wish to criticize the teachers or the Hamilton County Department of Education – because this is one child horribly bent -- but until we gather arms with our school administers, our law enforcement, our juvenile courts and, perhaps most importantly, meet our desperate need for mental problems, ours is a school district that is now run amok.
I am informed by a very good source that last week a known trouble-maker at an inner-city high school asked a teacher for a bathroom pass.
He was given a red plastic card to walk to the restroom. The student then defecated on the plastic card so that, upon his return to class, he could tell the teacher – and the class – “I s*** on your card!”
The teacher immediately wrote a report for the principal, and after it was submitted the report was returned with the words, “Consulted with student.”
Consulted! What does that mean? Do you really think our Session Court judges consult with criminals, that Sheriff Hammond consults with dope dealers, or that Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw has much time for longtime punks? This is almost an admission of defeat.
There’s more: A day or two later, over the weekend, it is alleged the same “card player” went to a nearby area to help deliver a “beat down” to a student of another school. But, not to worry, the card-carrier was back in school on Monday. And, I too, believe the joke of a the “consult” was most ineffective.
Clearly, we have a major problem with discipline in our Hamilton County Schools. While right and wrong haven’t changed on the game board, the insidious “liberal left” is most to blame because there are far more questions than answers in this nigh-unforgiveable scenario:
* -- This troublemaker is said to have quite a history of suspensions and fights. Why is he still allowed in a mainstream public high school? After last week’s audacious behavior, why isn’t he under lock-and-key? Has a mental evaluation been ordered? I predict this kid is on a crash-and-burn course and to not put him in custody is to sign his death warrant. “Beat downs” kindle revenge.
* -- Where was the School Resource Officer when it was learned what happened? To defecate on a hall pass should have, at the very least, warranted a quick arrest and a trip to the Juvenile Court. I am firmly of the belief you never want to disappoint a kid when he acts like an animal and, unless justice is firm, quick, and sure, it is a fact of life no lesson has been learned by the mindless among us.
* -- If we know three kids from one high school sought out another kid from a different high school, why haven’t aggravated assault charges been filed? You say it didn’t happen on school property but that makes no difference – crime is crime. Give the names to the police.
* -- Where was the principal when this vulgar act occurred and who will insist this child never attend that classroom ever again? Did the principal apologize to the other students in the room, have an emergency assembly to come down hard on the pervert, by name, and warn such a grotesque act would earn instant expulsion, not to mention a spell in jail? What if your child had been in the classroom that day – the learning level would be non-existent!
* -- Has any one ever sat down with this angry, troubled, and cowardly guy to find out why he’s acting out? I hope we never give up on any child but “the benefit of the doubt” belongs to every other student in this thug’s classroom.
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The new catch-words in school behavior are “restorative justice” and “restorative discipline.” Both really mean in common-sense language: “Will Not Work.” Restorative justice is defined by the “snowflakes” as “an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community. This contrasts to more punitive approaches where the main aim is to punish the offender, or satisfy abstract legal principles.”
In other words, what the liberal left refuses to understand, is that until you really get the attention of any miscreant, he’ll believe that “acting out,” or “being the clown,” is a thug’s lone recourse. It has happened since before the Bible was written and never turned out well for the thug.
Many believe that “retributive justice” is the only response. Effective for hundreds of years, this is “a theory of justice that considers punishment, if proportionate, to be the best response to crime. When an offender breaks the law, justice requires that they forfeit something in return.”
Retributive justice works in thousands of ways, from penalty yards being immediately marched off on a football field, a ticket written for speeding, or “shooting back.” All kinds of “real life” groups actively use retributive justice, among them the United States Marines, the Los Angeles Police Department, the native Americans of Alaska and – believe it or not – the Mexican cartels. All believe it to be most effective.
Until any type of discipline can totally ignore skin color, it will be neither fair nor effective. And until it is fair, teachers throughout the HCDE system will write anonymous emails, transfer to Georgia, or take whatever measures against a system that is believed to be broken, dysfunctional, and sadly lenient to in-school atrocities.
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The Georgia School for Innovation and the Classics has sent parents a form asking to paddle misbehaving children. Of 100 parents who returned the form about a third gave permission. Children without permission to be paddled can be suspended for up to five days.
“In this school we take discipline very seriously,” Superintendent Jody Boulineau told the Augusta Ga., newspaper, telling reporters that the majority of responses was, “Great, it’s about time… they should never have taken it out of the schools.
Currently corporal punishment is still active in about 20 states but HCDE Superintendent Bryan Johnson has said he opposes it.
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Tell me how we recognize our shared humanity when people are reduced to “labels” ? Roy Exum wrote an uninformed article reducing people and situations to divisive labels. Could he be mirroring the same behavior he accuses “snowflakes" and “insidious liberal left” of demonstrating? In a time where we are being defined by our political affiliations, where is there room for listening and learning from one another with labels off? In “Just Mercy”, Bryan Stevenson says, “We all have our reasons. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.” Bryan Stevenson also says, “each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” This young man's disgusting prank is no different. As far as the accusation of “beat downs” lets get some first-hand information. Not second and third and fourth.
Restorative justice can often be misunderstood. Many think that its “soft” and that the offender has no real consequences. But that’s not true. In short, restorative practices help students own up to their behavior and how it has hurt or affected those around them. More specifically, restorative practices require the community to surround the victim and offender to participate in healing for everyone involved. This is a process that can lead to harsher consequences if the offense requires it. The research and statistics prove that this builds stronger communities. Lets be clear, the Mexican cartel as an example of retributive justice, is a vengeful and violent take on punishment and will not create healing in our current fractured society.
Roy Exum spent his time describing this young man in coded language like “thug” and “animal” and making the distinction of an “inner city” school. Dear reader, tell me what racial images comes to your mind? Racist coded language confirms our deep seeded stereotypes of specific racial groups and our assumption that they are threatening. It takes great humility to be aware and admit to the bias we all carry.
Restorative practices allows for holistic approaches to meet our children's needs. By moving away from punitive discipline we can make room for each others' humanity and begin with compassion in mind. Roy Exum wants you to believe that revenge and isolation as punishment is our way forward, when our students are in need of connection. His article shows how lables and coded language don’t lead to social change, but a perpetual cycle of outrage and disconnection from one another. Will you reject this divisive posture and be a part of healing in our community? Could we reflect on how we protect and support our young people? Listening and open dialogue with our students around issues of discipline could shift to powerful changes that empower our students in creating their future. Will you reject fear-based labels and learn more about restorative practices? The health of our young people could depend on it.
Sarah Marquez Beresteck