Bob Herbert’s column in the New York Times contains an amazing statement by the police chief in Avon Park, Florida.
“The student became violent,” said Frank Mercurio, the no-nonsense chief of the Avon Park police. “She was yelling, screaming — just being uncontrollable. Defiant.”
“But she was 6,” I said.
The chief’s reply came faster than a speeding bullet: “Do you think this is the first 6-year-old we’ve arrested?”
More from Herbert’s column which is NYT Select.
The child’s tantrum occurred on the morning of March 28 at the Avon Elementary School. According to the police report, “Watson was upset and crying and wailing and would not leave the classroom to let them study, causing a disruption of the normal class activities.”
After a few minutes, Desre’e was, in fact, taken to another room. She was “isolated,” the chief said. But she would not calm down. She flailed away at the teachers who tried to control her. She pulled one woman’s hair. She was kicking.
I asked the chief if anyone had been hurt. “Yes,” he said. At least one woman reported “some redness.”
The child was having a temper tamtrum, and by this time she was hiding under a table from the police. They were trying to grab her legs, and she was resisting. You can’t get the whole picture in just a few paragraphs.
She was handcuffed, arrested and taken to jail and charged.
Herbert included in his column something that got my attention, about resarch being done in Florida schools.
Last spring a number of civil rights organizations collaborated on a study of disciplinary practices in Florida schools and concluded that many of them, “like many districts in other states, have turned away from traditional education-based disciplinary methods — such as counseling, after-school detention, or extra homework assignments — and are looking to the legal system to handle even the most minor transgressions.”
Once you adopt the mindset that ordinary childhood misbehavior is criminal behavior, it’s easy to start seeing young children as somehow monstrous.
I wrote about this new pattern of arresting children in a post here at Booman earlier. It is a pattern. A scary one. Behavioral modification by arrest.
And here are Herbert’s closing words, the words from the mouth of Avon Park’s police chief who has arrested more than his share of 6 year olds…
“Believe me when I tell you,” said Chief Mercurio, “a 6-year-old can inflict injury to you just as much as any other person.”
Thankful to Bob Herbert for keeping on with this issue.