It is a sad day in Memphis. A video of White Station High School girls involved in a brawl has gone viral on nearly all social media. The level of violence is disturbing. The days of girls clawing and scratching have gone and have been replaced with superman punches from cafeteria tables and slamming heads on tables. How have we gotten to this point? Can we stop this runaway train before it reaches Doomsville? If the decision makers of this City, County, and State don’t start making informed decisions, the future is disastrous. I have a few problems I’d like to share which will highlight the failures in our schools and governing bodies.
The Zero Tolerance Policy
I’m not sure what was the policy before the take over. What take over you ask? When the schools systems were consolidated, it was not a merger. It was more like a hostile take over. And when it was over, the new Shelby County School board peeled the logo off of the successful Shelby County Schools policy and procedures and slapped it onto the failed Memphis City Schools Policy and Procedures Manual. In that manual was the zero tolerance for fighting policy. The policy states “Fighting in or on school property unless, in accordance with state law, the principal recommends no disciplinary action for a student who is deemed to have acted in self-defense or defense of another;” However, the policy is rarely applied that way. Typically both students are disciplined. There is no way for the principal to deem that a student acted in self-defense because no time is taken for an investigation. You’re not accomplishing anything by suspending the kid that has had to stand up to the bully. The bully still wins. Send the bully packing and the defender back to class sends a more powerful message.
Cell Phone Policy
I have been back and forth on this. There have been several arguments for and against allowing students to maintain possession of their cell phones during school. Bottom line is, they should be forbidden and stiff penalties for those who violate the policy. Cell phones contribute to the problem by:
1. The main instigators of fights are people who want to have the next viral video. How is the video recorded? On a cell phone!
2. When a student has a problem at the school, the parents(or their posse) learn about the problem before the administration learns about it. Before you know it, there’s chaos on campus.
3. The social media wars don’t have time to cool off.
4. Text messaging is used to coordinate attacks and other illegal activities during school hours.
Cell phones must go until the students can demonstrate the maturity to handle the privilege.
Law enforcement officers are allowed to arrest persons for misdemeanor offenses that occur in their presence. Officers are require to issue a citation or summons unless they believe that the offense will continue. If said officer believes the offense will continue, then the offender is to be transported to jail. That happens everywhere accept in Shelby County. In Shelby County, juveniles are issued summonses unless the arresting officer takes the time to find out if the offender has accumulated enough points to warrant transportation. Even then, the offender may be released the next day. There have been juveniles charged with rape and released to their parents pending trial. This is ludicrous. How can you let participants in a brawl go back to neighborhoods to wreak havoc? Juvenile court is hiding behind the scathing report issued by the Department of Justice on their treatment of minorities for these policy changes. The bottom line, it comes down to dollars and cents. You can’t be so concerned about the civil rights of offenders and overlook victim’s rights which have civil rights built in as well. Juvenile court did not fix the problems, they’re just avoiding them. Release the offenders immediately, that way they don’t have to pay for housing them and lessens the risk of any civil rights violations.
Officers in the Schools
There are some great school resource officers. There are some that should not be allowed to guard a landfill. The Shelby County Schools Security team in comprised of retired Memphis Police Officers, a few good security officers, and a lot of gung-ho wanna be’s. Many of these officers contribute to the problems by improperly charging offenders or simply not filing the appropriate report. Let’s take the video for instance. I am willing to bet, every one of those students was charged with disorderly conduct which is a class C misdemeanor. Tennessee law defines a riot as “a gathering of three or more people acting in a threatening or violent manner that creates a risk of injury or substantial property damage…” Participating in a riot is a class A misdemeanor. The charge is rarely used. Disorderly conduct is either a slap on the wrist or a firm talking with some finger shaking. We see how that has worked out. Many officers develop loyalties to the school principal and participate in cover ups. The officers in the schools need to consistently report crimes and place the appropriate charges.
Bring Back Principals
Back in the day, five words let you know that you’ve messed up, “Go to the principal’s office!” That was the longest walk of your life. But teachers were allowed to do that. They didn’t have to put up with hours and hours of an unruly student before making an “office referral.” Many principals are too busy being administrators. Their too busy jacking with teachers they have an ax to grind with rather than control the chaos in their school. Or they’re locked in their office completing their thesis so people can then call them “Doctor”. I know that the school board removed corporal punishment(biggest mistake for all eternity) but use those degrees on your wall to invoke order. Too many principals are throwing teachers under the bus and engaging in negative student retention to avoid losing their position. Let the parents know who runs the school.
The School Board
If I want a real laugh, I can just read the minutes from the school board meeting, not watch Kevin Hart. I have not seen one thing that this body has done for the betterment of the students. There are more people making 6 figures, holding positions that are redundant. They are not lobbying the state legislature to pass laws that protect teachers while in the discharge of their duties. Furthermore, they conduct surveys on the teacher’s performance, have they surveyed how well their anti-bullying policy is working. From looking at the video, it sucks. I’m not going to dwell on the court of jesters. Parents need to remember in November.
The Bottom Line
The schools are the proving grounds for members of our society. If you can’t make in the schools, you’re going to have a tough go at life. The same tantrums and lame excuses these kids use with the “administrators” , they try to use it in life. Time out in the real world equals jail. Throwing a tantrum when someone makes you do something gets you fired in the real world. There will always be rules wherever you go, but the kids that the SCS produces expect for them to be shaped to suit their needs. I know that parenting plays a big role in this video and other problems in our city, but perhaps if the school board and the “administrators” do their jobs, the student can get some discipline in their day. The school board, needs to stop giving in to these parents who only come to the school when someone disciplines their child and tell them “tough caca! That’s the way it is!” If we lose the schools, we’ve lost Memphis.