Like many of you, I watched in horror as I saw the video of a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina. My first reaction was, 'is this really happening today in America?' but I know that it is happening in America today. We do not know what happened before this video was shot, but what sort of conduct warrants this type of treatment of a child? As an officer of the law, this detective took an oath which he not only violated but soiled the very intention behind having school resource officers in the first place. My stomach panged from the inside out as I watched the student being drug across the floor like a rag doll, but that pain was quickly replaced with anguish as I beheld the stoic, motionless faces of the other students captured in the video frame who appeared traumatized by the entire ordeal.
I've spent decades as an educator and school administrator, so I know as well as anyone that some children can pose challenges to teachers, administrators and their classmates. But I also know that there are better solutions to educational problems than violence. This detective not only crossed the line but acted as though no line even existed- as if the students have no rights, as if they are not citizens and somehow are subhuman. All too often, well intended school administrators call upon school resource officers to solve issues that are actually administrative in nature and should be resolved by school staff. There is no justified reason why the appearance of a cell phone or the refusal to surrender it should result in what transpired at Spring Valley. The big picture here is that our schools should be places of learning, not places of violence. We must dismantle the school to prison pipeline.
Across America, we place so little emphasis on teaching, modeling and enabling children to achieve greatness. Without an emphasis on their future, too often young people turn away from education and go down other paths. This is why mutual respect in the classroom is sometimes absent. And there are ways to bring that respect back: to show children that they need to focus on their education if they are going to succeed later in life. Unless this student posed an imminent threat to herself or others, I don't think this over-reaction was warranted. Kudos to the other student who attempted to stand in the gap for the student who was assaulted. I've seen statements from the educators in Spring Valley saying that safety is their number one priority. Somehow, though, the safety and learning of this child and others was the last priority. And it's clear what other students in the room would have felt during this incident: I think we can all agree that they likely didn't feel 100 percent safe.
The bottom line here is that there are many questions, but few answers. If we take a step back, we can see that another way is possible. If we can re-think the way we treat our children and the ways we teach them, we can maybe see another future is possible. If we placed more emphasis on learning how to achieve rather than making our schools look like prisons, then maybe we can have a brighter future. If we can focus on what we want our children's futures to look like and teach them the ways to get there and not answer obstinacy with violence, then we can reach greatness as a nation. This incident tells me that while there may be some things going wrong in this classroom, there are also lots of things going wrong in our education system nationwide. We can and should work to solve them. I'm reminded of our school motto I used as a Principal, "it's better to build children than to repair men and women!"