#school #education #prison
A fight between junior high children should not result in a trip in a cop car and a criminal record.
I happened upon a rather brutal fight involving a group of boys yesterday. Strangely, there were no teachers to be seen, but that is another story. When I walked up the crowd scattered. Remaining was a pile of angry entangled boys who knew they would soon be whisked away in handcuffs. The boys were clearly angry and in no place to be reasonable. Some staff and the principal showed up to help with the ruckus, and take them to the office to wait for our friends in blue.
This has been the case in every school I’ve taught. Kids fight. Cops are called. Kids are arrested. I’ve seen police in the elementary schools before. True, fighting is not appropriate in a school setting. It’s not ideal anywhere. But, it’s not the problem. Fighting is a symptom of a problem that is usually never uncovered because our fighters disappear with the police or into suspension or alternative schools and the problems that are beneath the violence are never uncovered. These kids never learn to process their emotions effectively and become an early candidate for adult imprisonment. These kids act out and are punished over and over. They return angry and start the cycle again. For these kids the pipeline from school to prison is a reality.
What could be done differently? I don’t have an answer to this. I’d like one. I know it starts with building relationships with students and communities. It requires some early intervention. It requires not turning children into criminals. Kids need a chance to become adults. They need room to grow, and support while they’re growing. Calling a 7th grader a hardened and lost criminal is not the way. Schools have their hands full, but with the wrong things. We are about the wrong business with standardization and the like. Humans and humanity are our real business. I gather that’s ultimately a policy issue, but that’s no excuse. We have to care for what is before us. Send me some answers if you have any. email@example.com