By now, everyone in America has seen video of a cop body-slamming a teenage girl at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina. The story is made more painful by reports that she recently lost her mother and grandmother and is now in foster care.
My father was a school psychologist who took in strays. Among the people who lived with us for a time was a lad who decked a teacher, one who pulled a knife on someone, and a schizophrenic in full delusion mode (that was back before psychotropic meds actually worked). None of them were arrested; in fact, I can’t remember any cops ever visiting a school at all, for any reason.
Neither would they have used dogs to search lockers for pot. There were, of course, stoners back in the Seventies, and there was also widespread alcohol use since the drinking age was 18. Most teenage boys carried knives, and many of them used guns—in fact, there was a gun safety course taught at our high school.
Later, I took city buses across Buffalo to school. That meant I rode with kids from the Commodore Perry Projects and Buffalo’s First Ward, both of which were pretty tough. While I was sometimes scared, I was never endangered by a fellow student. (The creepy old lechers were far more aggressive.)
When armed guards are the norm at the transit station and cops patrol the schools, we ought to admit that we’ve utterly failed as a society.
Put yourself in a classroom where an adult manhandles a student. Watching that unfold is a profound lesson in what force majeure really means. You understand at that moment that you will get no fair hearing from the powerful. There is no place for dissent; your best bet is to keep your head down and just get out somehow. Meanwhile, that kind of hindrance stress retards your ability to learn, or even to listen.
Then consider that side-by-side with this report by a psychologist, who asserts that we’re far more likely to diagnose and medicate anti-authoritarian children. This has been my experience. I’ve lost count of the boys I know who are diagnosed and drugged for ADD, ADHD, ODD, anxiety disorders and some position on the autism spectrum. It’s certainly easier and less annoying to drug them than adapt the system to meet their needs or take their concerns seriously.
If you think it doesn’t matter, think again. These are our future citizens, trained to stay in line with the use of violence and drugs.