Location: Texas, United States

I am a teacher with 33 years experience in public education. The purpose of this web log is to critically examine the present state of education in our great country and, particularly, in Texas.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Stick figures and felonies

As I plan to travel to my state capital to attend a conference on zero tolerance issues there is breaking news. Apparently two children, aged 9 and 10, drew stick figures that resulted in felony charges. Article. The two special education students drew what were referred to as "primative" (what else would most 9 or 10 year olds be able to draw) stick figures.

The two children were taken from thier school in handcuffs and charged with a second-degree felony. Another child was depicted in the drawings. Thus the two special education children were charged with making a "written threat to kill or harm another person" according to Additionally, the boys were suspended from school. So, if I read this correctly, the boys have already been punished by the school through suspension. Now the city of Ocala, Florida is going to use its full legal power and taxpayer money to prosecute two 9 and 10 year olds on second degree felony charges.

Would every parent in America and the world please turn in their children tonight. I have to confess, too, that when I was a child I did also draw stick figures that I am sure sometimes illustrated violence to someone else. Or, at least I am sure I did. Also, while everyone else is turning themselves in would the Ocala school district also turn itself in for not teaching these kids anything about respect. Oh, I forgot -- how about THE PARENTS! I am suggesting that the parents, teachers and any other adult involved in the lives of these kids turn themselves in because the kids obviously WEREN'T TAUGHT ANYTHING! Or, alternatively, they were taught something about right and wrong and then in whatever silly bullying mood they were in forgot it BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS! WHAT WOULD A SCHOOL KNOW ABOUT HOW KIDS CAN BEHAVE? WHAT WOULD A SCHOOL KNOW ABOUT TEACHING KIDS HOW TO RESPECT OTHER KIDS.

Help me I think my head is going to explode.

Obviously, this particular school doesn't know how to accomplish the task. Nor, do they give a care for either of the parties.

Here is a news flash for the geniuses who had these kids arrested today. I am sure that this could not be tried because it is such an old-fashioned notion. How about doing what my mother would have done. She would have taken me aside and sternly told me that what I did was wrong, that I was never to do that again, and that if I did I would be spanked or lose many things I liked to do. Heaven forbid - that would be child abuse of the worst sort. No, obviously it is better to arrest two 9 and 10 year old kids. Obviously, it is better to drag them out of their school and take them to the police station - I assume. No, better to put them through the juvenile justice system. No, so much better to spend who knows how much money prosecuting the two stick drawers. Absolutely, it is better to use what amounts to capital punishment for schools -- that is -- suspend them for something that could be corrected by TEACHING. Is it possible that these brilliant minds have forgotten that you TEACH 9 and 10 year olds how to behave instead of arresting them. Einstein move over - you place in intellectual history is insecure.

And, how about the other kid, the one who felt threatened? Is it better to teach him that the adults in school can't protect him. Obviously, he couldn't have been told he did the right thing to report it to the teacher. Obviously, he should now understand that if he draws stick figures he, too, will be arrested and taken away. No, he couldn't be told that what the other two boys did was wrong, but that the school will see to it that he is safe. No, he couldn't have been told that the other two boys were going to be punished. Absolutely not, no, he has to believe that his life was actually threatened as surely as if some child molester abducted him. No, he couldn't have been assured that some people behave badly, punish the "evil-doers" and let it go at that. No, we have to involve the whole legal system. They must be hanging people who drive faster than the speed limit in Ocala.

Another aspect of this example of school absurdity is that now that the process has started three will not be any turning back. According to the article the "Ocala police said they stand behind the decision to arrest the children". Brilliant, where are they going to go from there - the death penalty for 5 year olds who push another kid down? They must blow away jay-walkers on the spot.

The arresting officer was particularly eloquent. And, please forgive me, I absolutely do support the police when they are fighting real crime. But, the arresting police officer had to rise and say "when an adult or even myself look at the picture looked at it first I was thinking there is really not much to the picture or I would not be scared by the picture those children drew".

No kidding? First, is the police officer not an adult? Someone, please, please, please tell me that the wording of the statement is not a direct quote. Someone tell me that got it wrong.

Second, is there no adult on the staff who could have sat down with the child to calm his fear. Must he be so afraid of this - an infantile stick drawing - that it requires police intervention? Must this child be that afraid of other children? What have they taught this child about fear. How is he to respond when he is confronted by a barking dog?

What will happen when a child on some playground actually hits him or pushes him to the ground? What recourse will he have? Logically, he must call 911 and summon the swat team. Given the logical path of ascending consequences you have to think the police will come on the play ground and empty a revolver into the kid who pushed him. Really, what will this school do to a kid who actually touches another child? Do they have a guillotine set up on the stage of the cafeteria?

The officer went on to say "However, we have to put ourselves in his mind and that's the bottom line here. It is his well-being and the way he perceived that picture to be. It actually put him in extreme fear and he was in fear of his life".

Most likely the officer is right. The poor kid probably was afraid. However, having taught for 31 years I absolutely know that it is remotely possible that he might also have gone up and told the teacher in the manner of a child sticking out his tongue and waggling his hands in his ears at the other.

More is the reason to sit the child down and talk with him about the incident. Teach him about what happened. Teach him that he is strong enough to withstand the assault of stick drawings. Please, don't teach him that a silly stick drawing requires the intervention of the police. Teach him that he can stand the unholy stress of having two other 9 and 10 year old children drawing admittedly distressing drawings about him.

Now, back to the children. Can someone tell me why it is better to drag them out to the police car than, say, Heaven forbid, give them a couple of pops, give them a couple of days of in-school suspension. No, can't do that, it would be old-fashioned. Or, it might be cruel. Well, how about handcuffing them, dragging them to the police car, taking them downtown and actually having some poor overworked police officer book them in.

To justify arresting children for this absurd "crime" you have to believe that there is absolutely no hope of redemption in pre-pubescent kids. You have to believe that these kids are so far gone that they can't be saved. You have to believe that reasonable adults have no other recourse against stick drawings than to call in the armed police. You have to actually believe that stick drawings require an ARMED WITH DEADLY FORCE response. You have to actually believe as an adult - presumably with some kind of an advanced degree, presumably with some degree of experience in dealing with children - that stick drawings require ARMED AND DEADLY FORCE. What kind of mind responds this way to CHILDREN?

This in the same United States where so many people believe that adults who murder, rape, and cut innocent people to bits should not be given the death penalty. This in the same United States where it is legal to rip a living, breathing child out of its mothers womb. Oops, ripping the child out of its mothers womb sort of fits in with this response in a perverse sort of way. Bad example.

If that is how we now should raise children in this society would you please get the manned vehicle to Mars. If it is better to arrest children, handcuff them and put them through the juvenile system instead of sitting them down and teaching them right from wrong then I most certainly was born 100 years too late.

All I think I know is simple. If that school in Florida has to call in the police to arrest kids who draw admittedly tasteless and silly stick drawings then there is no person in that school who is safe.

And finally to the school - Is there any way you can find to make education and educators look more stupid? Can you find a way to make yourselves look more like you are unable to teach children the barest essentials of civility? Can you find a way to broadcast your abject and miserable failure to do you job louder? If that is the best you can do then lock your doors today and send your children home because you are hopeless and there is no reason for your continued existence as a place of learning. Your skills with children certainly must be worthless.

John ---

p.s. Please forgive the CAPS as they were written, I couldn't find a way to actually scream online.


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