I watched a video from the TODAY Show this evening. (View the video here.) Part of me thought about clicking to the next video and moving on, but my stomach began to turn and my pulse began to beat faster – I knew I had to write a post about that which wasn’t shared by the media during this report.
So, a general overview (if you didn’t watch the video)… the report focuses on the increased amount of students being cuffed inside schools and even having charges brought against them. Interviewees spoke of their concerns about the connection between handcuffing children and the way it makes the kids feel. The reporter provided data on the statistics of African American students and students with disabilities.
Now, let me just say a few things (and I am going to really control myself and not type 1,000,000 words because I think I could about this topic). I have taught for several years in a public school that was close to 100% African-American. I also spent even more years teaching only students with disabilities. So my experience lines up with the data that was given. It’s no secret, I’m not a fan of “data” because data can often be shaped and twisted to say whatever the researcher (or person paying money) wants it to say. There’s plenty of examples out there if you want to research that challenge. During my years of teaching, I saw students handcuffed and students restrained. Additionally, I was trained to perform restraints myself. Here’s my take on my personal experiences over several years where cuffs and kids were both inside the schools.
My biggest frustration with this news report is that they never addressed WHY ARE TODAY’S YOUTH REACTING IN SUCH A WAY THAT ADULTS NEED TO USE HANDCUFFS????? Is this not the root of the problem? If the behaviors did not exist, there would be no need for handcuffs. I understand that some schools might go too far; you are going to see that in every job. There are always people that go to the extreme. Yet still, I do not believe that this is the average situation and I am basing it off of witnessing escalated students for years and years. When are we going to start asking why are the children so angry? Why did they walk into the school/class with those emotions? Why are children not respecting statements that are coming from adults and people of authority? What ever happened to respecting yourself and respecting elders? When will parents take responsibility for the actions of their children before accusing other adults of doing wrong? When will there be effective consequences? (I have many more questions, but I will stop there.) Let’s move on to what behaviors I have seen day-after-day for many, many years.
Yes, all schools are different, but I have not taught in schools that were rare exceptions. They were regular public schools in America. They were not alternative schools. I worked with students from the ages of 5-16, but the majority of the time they were in the age range from 7-10 (So I won’t even go into details about the older students and what I have seen there.). This is what I would commonly see across the years: Students repeatedly spitting in the faces of school staff. Students hitting school staff members, including to the point of ripped out hair and blood on the floors. Students smashing out windows of staff member’s vehicles and writing curse words with markers on them. Students cursing out staff members for extended periods of time. Students beating in the faces of peers, breaking bones and pulling out guns/knives/weapons. Students performing sexual acts within the school buildings. Students setting bulletin boards on fire. Students throwing chairs and desks into the bodies of peers and staff members. Students cornering peers/staff members and attacking them, while others video tape, cheer, curse and laugh. Students ripping all papers off of hallway walls and classroom walls. Students busting out the windows within the classrooms. Students threatening to bring guns to school to kill people, and to blow up the school. Students attacking peers/school staff while the school bus is in motion.
I’m going to stop right there, but please know that there are still many examples I could give of “regular” behaviors. Likewise, I could give several examples of what parents did on school property to both school staff and to other children (who were not their own).
So, let’s reflect here. If this is what the students are doing…I’d like to hear, what should the school staff do? Allow the student to physically harm others? This would be viewed as not right by the family of the individual being attacked. Allow the student to injure himself/herself? This is against policies and is also unsafe. Try to perform a restraint? There are guidelines as to what needs to take place to perform a restraint and to keep the restraint in place which often results in these not being effective. Call the cops? They also have handcuffs and there are different laws surrounding what they can do. Call an intervention team? You still have the issue of the child not complying to the directions being given. What is the solution?
I believe the solution lies in identifying the root of the problem. Personally, I have worked with many minors who displayed violent behaviors and through a lot of hard work, I have managed to communicate with them in an effort to find the source of their anger. Often the student was not mad at the adult, nor even the peer. Many times the student was feeling hurt, betrayed, letdown, abandoned, neglected…the list goes on and on. As a society, where are we failing today’s youth? This report would lead people to believe that we are failing students by putting cuffs on them within the school walls, charging them with violating laws, or by providing consequences that sound extreme on paper.
I would argue that we fail these students long before handcuffs ever come out. We fail them when we don’t raise them to respect all authority. We fail them when we model fighting instead of ignoring or talking through problems. We fail them when we choose other “things” over our children. We fail them when we make excuses for our behaviors as parents, and for their behaviors as children. We fail them when we don’t follow through with consequences to teach lessons. We fail them when we devalue schools and the power of education. We fail them when they feel more anger from us, than love. We fail them when we use technology to replace parental engagement. We fail them when we blow off going to appointments. We fail them when we exhibit unhealthy habits. We fail them when we repeatedly expose them to the same traps that we fell into as youngsters. We fail them when we focus on being a friend, instead of a parent. We fail them when they try to tell us about their day, but we are too busy on our phones. We fail them…we fail them…we fail them. And then for some reason, we think we should blame others.
Ahmeli… that we would tackle the root of the problems that are effecting today’s youth in an effort to help them to have a brighter future.
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