It. Was. A. Phone!

The student was asked to put her phone away.  She refused, and was told to leave the classroom.  She refused to leave, and the school contacted a police officer.  It. Was. A. Phone!


From improper cell phone use to handcuffs?

I’m watching a cable news show at the moment and I can’t believe they just completed a frame by frame analysis of how the situation escalated because the student hit the police officer AFTER he touched her and began tipping her chair over….and before he threw her across the room.  After the video analysis they began discussing how school board policy dictates how charges are escalated after she touches the police officer.  It. Was. A. Phone!

I’m not upset with the student.  Believe it or not, I’m not extremely upset with officer Ben Fields.  I feel he should be punished accordingly and allowed to get on with his life.  That’s all concerning him.  My extreme disappointment is with any teacher/school/district/school board that gives license to law enforcement personnel to manhandle our children when they’re not engaged in behavior that’s dangerous to themselves or others. While some are unaware, or may roll their eyes when you mention the school-to-prison pipeline, this is a text book example of how that journey begins for many children of color.  In this instance, a young girl didn’t listen to her teacher and was eventually handcuffed, arrested and charged with a misdemeanor in South Carolina that carries potential penalties of a $1,000 fine or 90 days in county jail.  It. Was. A Phone! 

Police Officer

The inherent danger when outsourcing school discipline to police

At this moment, the same school and school board that caused this issue is having an emergency meeting to address a problem that THEY created.  I’m sure they’re focused on the tactics used by officer Fields instead of the unwillingness of a teacher/administrator to do their job and handle a minor disciplinary issue with a student.  It’s been a long day and I don’t feel like writing about de-escalation methods or the power of teacher-student relationships in managing behavior/discipline issues.  Simply know that there are many outstanding teachers who de-escalate encounters with young men and women on a daily basis.  Besides, many teachers wish the big problem in their class was a student who sat in her chair and refused to leave the classroom.  Perhaps it’s the nature of what I do as a special educator, but I know we have the ability to prevent issues like this from occurring.  I was called a “fucker”, kicked and punched a few hours ago while at work – it was another day at the office.  More importantly, the student eventually returned to class to continue his day, and gets to start tomorrow with a clean slate.

Deputy Sued for Handcuffing Students

Handcuffed and guilty of ADHD

As the dust settles and folk take sides against the “disobedient black girl” or the “racist police officer” it’s very important that we don’t lose sight of the larger issue.  First, I won’t classify the girl as disobedient or the police officer as racist.  Getting caught up in that argument takes the spotlight off of those who truly caused this problem.  We did!  As educators, we cannot become apathetic when it comes to doing the necessary work with students and look to law enforcement to handle our problems.  A similar issue arose a few moths ago when it was discovered that a deputy handcuffed 8 and 9 year old children who “misbehaved” as a result of their ADHD.  That deputy was rightfully lambasted, but where was the outrage and calls for accountability of those teachers and administrators who parents entrusted with their children on a daily basis?  When parents kiss their children goodbye as they head to school they never assume their son or daughter will end up handcuffed on school property.  We set the rules of engagement within our buildings.  Those schools belongs to us.  For seven hours each day those children belong to us.  Those parents trust us.   Those children trust us. We can’t continue to place the blame solely of law enforcement when situations escalate and children are mistreated and arrested because of us. We can do better.


FYI, This is how one of those teacher-police phone conversations SHOULD go:

{Ring, ring}

Police: Good afternoon this is officer Friendly, how can I help you?

School: We’re having an issue within a classroom and need you ASAP!

Police:  What’s the issue, ma’am?

School: A young lady is refusing to leave the classroom?

Police: Is she armed or attacking students? I may need to call for backup.

School: No, she won’t leave the class.

Police: She won’t leave? Did she attack the teacher?

School: No. She refused to put her cell phone away, was asked to leave, and now she won’t leave.

Police:  What do you want me to do?

School:  Make her leave the classroom.

Police:  Ma’am, I’m here for the safety and protection of students, and not to address minor classroom disagreements between a student and her teacher.  Follow whatever local procedures you have in place for these non-violent classroom disagreements.  Call her parents if you feel a need. And, let’s meet after school to discuss OUR roles within your building.


There’s nothing wrong with dreaming…



  1 comment for “It. Was. A. Phone!

  1. Deidra
    October 30, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Everything you said. I too have had the privilege of working with young adults, as well as being a mom. I wholeheartedly agree and love this article

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