Going Viral: Bad Cops Vs. Everyday Miracles

My adoptive state of South Carolina is making the news again, and it hurts my heart.

spring valley high schoolI’m sick over the video all over the internet and news channels this morning, of the teenage girl knocked to the ground while still in her desk, then thrown across the room and cuffed by a Sheriff’s Deputy/School Resource Officer (SRO). It hurts on so many levels:

  • A seated, not-terribly-large girl essentially assaulted by a much larger, armed man;
  • All the kids who witnessed it sitting stunned and/or recording it (thank God they recorded it);
  • A teacher and an Assistant Principal (AP), standing by and doing nothing;
  • I’m sick that she is black and he is white, which I don’t think had much to do with it maybe, but which circumstance will fuel the fire in our country about injustices past and still very much present against African-Americans, making it harder to talk to one another and find a way forward, together;
  • Most disheartening of all to me is that this will be played again and again, drilled into the national consciousness and it’s one incident, albeit a horrific one in Public Education, where every day I worked in schools I saw miracles, large and small.

It is alleged by both students and school personnel the girl was disruptive of the classroom and non-compliant; how profoundly I wish she had simply complied with instructions! Bitter experience has shown me how it wears one down, the disrespect, defiance, and especially the heartbreaking self-sabotage of the unruly student; I have totally wanted to slam a kid into the wall on occasion. But no matter how many of them there are, no matter how weary one is, it is the charge of the adults in the room to remain adult. I will also hypothesize that clearing the room of students and the teacher, calling in another AP to join the SRO and AP present (to ensure safety of both the student and each other as well as veracity of the incident) and then calling her parents to come deal with her might have prevented the whole awful outcome.

I pray she was not injured, because it was a horrific fall.

What breaks my heart is that most educational professionals do remain calm and focused, day after month after year, school staff of every station maintain their cool while being sworn at, physically assaulted, and generally treated with contempt by students, parents, and sometimes even their own Central Administration, who assures them they can be replaced by someone cheaper, just waiting in line for their job.

But here are some of the everyday miracles I’ve seen:

  • Teachers who paid student’s electric bills, bought groceries, tutored them on their own time, fought for them, prayed for them, cried with and for them. Teachers who refused to let them fail, when failure was the only thing they had ever known;
  • Custodians who worked with athletes on their own time, interpreted for them in a mother tongue, gave them clothes or food at their own expense;
  • Secretaries who fed students, mothered them, held them as they cried, stood up for them, protected and loved them like their own when no one else would;
  • Principals/Assistant Principals who cleaved more to what was best for a particular student, given all his or her issues and circumstances, than what was strictly policy. APs who were creative, compassionate, and just in disciplining troublesome students; and,
  • School Resource Officers who took problem students under their wings, got to know their families, showed tough young people with checkered pasts another, better way to live.

These things are going on in every school in every city in every state in this fractious country,  unseen by any except for those of us in it. It is not done to garner thanks or appreciation, but out of love, out of dedication to our fellow human beings, out of a determination to make the world a better place, one student at a time. This dedication is colorblind and regardless of social class. It is quietly heroic, every day. These are the things I wish would go viral, would make the five o’clock news, rather than one bad apple cop and one perhaps troubled young lady both having the worst possible bad day.

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