Alex Brandon, AP
It's great fun to be a Monday morning quarterback, second-guessing the plays that other people have made. So I'll claim that title right up front and admit that I wasn't there when police in Georgia were dealing with an out-of-control suspect in an assault on a school principal.
But the fact that the miscreant they hauled down to the police station in handcuffs was a kindergarten student who'd been throwing a temper tantrum gives me pause and leads to a question I suspect others are asking, as well: What are we doing?
The facts of the case, as reported by the Associated Press, seem pretty straightforward. The girl (I just can't bring myself to name an alleged "criminal" who's not even in first grade yet, though her name is everywhere on the Internet) was accused of ripping items off the wall in her classroom. Witnesses allege she also threw books and toys, including "a small shelf that struck the principal in the leg."
The school superintendent told the news agency that the little girl was "violent and disruptive" and that police intervention kept everyone safe.
At the police station, she was unhandcuffed and given a soda. No charges are going to be filed. And the temporary pain she felt from the cuffs will no doubt be assuaged to a large degree by all the attention she's getting and perhaps even by a settlement at some point because it's hard to believe there's not a lawsuit, a made-for-TV movie or some other financial reward lurking somewhere in this preposterous scenario.
It's not, as the AP and others have pointed out, the first time police have been called to deal with something that should have been resolved between parents and school administrators.
A teacher in New Mexico told a teenage girl to quit talking and change seats. She didn't. The police were called.
There are literally thousands of cases in which police intervention is seen as an appropriate solution to the presence of cell phones in classes where they've been banned, a student ripping up a history book and other situations.
When criticized for calling the police for minor incidents, some teachers told AP that police are an appropriate intervention that's needed "to keep teachers and well-behaved students safe." And somehow the massacre of students at Columbine High School always ends up in the conversation, as if taking a little girl who's behaving like a brat down to the police station and giving her a soda will prevent the very real times a police presence is needed.
There are so many downsides to this scenario that it's hard to believe they even need to be addressed. First up, of course, is the question of how we want to use our valuable but limited resources — and police really do fit into that category. It is a rare community that has too many officers available to handle its crimes, much less its preschool tantrums.
There's also the question of what calling a policeman to enforce the school cell phone policy says about the capability of the school staff. The very act speaks volumes about the broken relationship between the school administration and the parents and students it serves.
In the Georgia school's defense, the principal said they couldn't reach the parents quickly to come deal with the little girl. If she was really rampaging, perhaps choices were limited.
But the sheer volume of stories about kids arrested for violating policy or being disrespectful, or suspended for bringing a plastic knife to cut a birthday cake or sharing a kiss between preschool classmates, makes me think students aren't the only ones who are a bit out of control.
Deseret News staff writer Lois M. Collins may be reached by email at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at loisco.
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