Sunday, April 10, 2011
Pepper Spray & Eight-Year-Olds
By now, you've probably read about the unruly eight-year-old boy who was pepper sprayed and cuffed by school police officers in a Denver suburb. I know, I'm still trying to get my mind around it as well. Yet, arguably, this story is much more complex than you might initially think.
Everything in my adult/teacher/parent mind tells me that there is no reason to pepper spray an third grader. My son is eight, and short of him having a gun, I can't think of any situation where I couldn't restrain him, even taking away from him a "sharpened stick" like the boy in the story was wielding. Some middle school and high school kids might be reasonable targets for pepper spray or even a taser if they are "threatening school personnel" and "throwing TVs and desks" at a door behind which the teachers had barricaded themselves. But an eight-year-old?
Yet, the district superintendent has defended the action as not only "legal" but in the best interest of the safety of the boy. Police officers are trained to take down the most dangerous and aggressive of people, and there is every reason to think that in restraining and removing the child, he could have ended up with bruises or a broken finger or wrist or arm or a concussion. And we can predict the lawsuits coming from that. In fact, the boy's mother wondered why the police didn't just talk to him as they had done on the two other occasions when they had been called to deal with this child.
And therein lies the complexity.
Clearly, this child is a problem. And previous "talking" may have led to the escalation, as the boy has learned he can get what he wants. The mom - who does not come off well in interviews - has clearly failed in almost every aspect of parenting. And she has burdened her son with issues he will struggle with for years. She claims doctors have refused to medicate him because it's not a medical problem. I agree. It's a parenting problem. And while the boy "never acts that way at home," I'd conclude it's because he gets everything he wants. My guess is the boy comes home each day and sits on the couch for hours watching SpongeBob or playing video games while his mom brings him every bit of junk food his heart desires. I'd guarantee homework is not an expectation in that house.
Thus, the boy was subdued, cuffed, and transferred to an alternative school for behavior disabled schools. Well, that's certainly appropriate, albeit about ten referrals and two police visits too late.
Oh, that we could have some discipline for mom as well.