In the second grade, a boy attacked my teacher. Ms. F ended up with a cut lip (she had braces) and bruised ego, hair askew. The Troubled Kid ended up out of the class, but that wasn’t until after a year filled with drama. She simply could not handle him, or really, teaching.
Ms. F was a hippie. She believed that academics were secondary to the arts. She taught us macramé. It was the only thing she taught. Distracted and frazzled, she paid little attention to the classroom goings on. She’d give us worksheets and students turned the finished product into a basket on her desk. The Troubled Kid stole my finished homework out of the basket, erased my name, and put his on the papers. Ms. F didn’t figure it out for weeks. She finally asked me why I wasn’t turning in my homework. Ms. F’s incompetence infuriated my parents. At the end of the year she said, “It’s amazing. The class has caught up to Melissa!” as if my radiant presence raised the level in the class rather than my intelligence just regressing to the mean.
That not-so-formative year came to mind when reading about the seven year old Miami student escorted out of school in handcuffs. This was the precipitating event:
A Miami-Dade Schools Police Department incident report says Fuentes’ son was told repeatedly by his female teacher that “if he was to continue to play with [his food] instead of eating it, to throw it away.”
The boy was then taken away (physically?) from the lunch room for disobeying the teacher [editorial note: for not eating his food? Why does the teacher care about him playing with his food?] and when she turned to get help from another teacher, the boy attacked her and they both fell to the ground.
He was taken to the office, his parents called, the police called. He was then cuffed and put in a police car and taken for a psych evaluation. He was given a 10-day suspension.
The parents say that the kid made a mistake and that he has good grades. The teacher is pressing charges.
It’s difficult to ascertain the truth of the situation looking at the news. There’s no question kids can be evil. There’s no question that many families seem overwhelmed with the strong personality of a challenging child or are messed up themselves and that the child’s behavior is an extension of the disorder at home. There’s no question that this world of emotional “snowflakes” started out as rotten children who never received discipline. There is no question that many schools are filled with incompetent Ms. F’s.
There is also no question that the schools are criminalizing behavior that would have once resulted in a trip to the principal’s office. Just last month a ten year old autistic boy (again in Florida) was arrested for aggressive behavior. In Indiana, an autistic boy was arrested for fighting back after being bullied. This is a terrible trend.
A seven year old boy acting aggressively is usually the symptom of a bigger problem, not the problem. Putting him in handcuffs, sending him to a psych unit via a police car without his parents is a concession that the school doesn’t have a handle on the situation. It is a failure.
The Troubled Kid in second grade had a problem but he wasn’t the problem. The full story isn’t out about the boy in Miami. Maybe he, too, is a Troubled Kid. Whatever the truth, the solution isn’t cuffing and arresting him.