The images from the video tape of the violence at Spring Valley High School are still hard to erase from my mind.
Amy Davidson does a good job of writing about what Niya Kenny observed the other day when Ben Fields slammed that Black child to the floor.
Kenny was also a student in that class and was arrested for the crime of coming to the defense of her classmate.
Both are African American. And in this story, that matters.
“I just couldn’t believe this was happening,” Kenny told WLTX. “I was just crying and he was like, ‘Since you have so much to say, you coming too…. You want some of this?’ And just put my hands behind my back.” Both girls were arrested, on the charge of “disturbing the school.” Spring Valley’s policy is part of a larger move, across the country, toward criminalizing school discipline. (Yesterday, the Times reported on an internal e-mail exchange at the Success Academy, a charter school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, which mentioned encouraging certain first-graders to withdraw from the school, in part by calling 911 if they caused trouble.) It is as if there is a general wariness toward children, particularly black or other minority children, or perhaps a blindness to the fact that they are children at all.
The crime committed here was disrupting a school? According to Davidson, that is a misdemeanor in South Carolina, punishable by 90 days in jail.
In what way was school disrupted?
The girl assaulted by Ben Fields disrupted school, as far as I can tell, by not participating.
…there is no allegation, for example, that she was screaming or throwing things in the class, but, rather, as the Sheriff haltingly put it, “she wasn’t doing what the other students were doing…. He was trying to teach … she was preventing that from happening by not paying attention.”
If not paying attention was a crime in the school district where I once taught, they would have to line buses up in front of the school to take a whole bunch of white kids to prison.
Particularly the week before Halloween.
Yet that just doesn’t happen.
I recall my last year of teaching. I was being observed by my principal for purposes of evaluation.
If you are thinking this makes little sense, you are right. I had given notice of retirement two years earlier and I was being evaluated six months before I would leave.
For what purpose? None that I can think of.
Nonetheless, when I received my written observation from the principal, she had commented that one of my students was not paying attention. He was staring off into space, she wrote.
This was true.
When we had our post-observation conference I pointed out that the student she was referring to had autism (something she should have known as principal) and without knowing him she could have no idea whether the boy was paying attention or not. Staring into space was typical behavior for him.
That’s what he does. It doesn’t mean he isn’t attending. Or maybe it does.
My student with autism would have been committing a misdemeanor in South Carolina, punishable by 90 days in prison.
My principal deleted her comment from my performance review.
Neither the boy with autism nor I was slammed to the floor.
But then neither of us were Black.
A group of South Carolina high school students staged a brief walkout Friday in support of their school’s former resource officer, Ben Fields, who was fired Wednesday for flipping a student and her desk backward onto a floor, and tossing her several feet across a classroom, reports CBS affiliate WCSC.
Although the student protest seemed disruptive to some observers, there are no reports of violence, arrests or misdemeanor charges being filed. Nobody was slammed to the floor.