MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When The New York Times (NYT) calls the tasering of students as a "disciplinary" measure torture, it is time to take notice that our schools have been infected with the appalling post 9/11 acceptance of harsh interrogation and discipline.
After all, the NYT has long been reluctant to call many abhorrent and internationally illegal measures used by the United States in the wake of 9/11 torture. The NYT has preferred the euphemism and more publically acceptable term "harsh interrogation techniques."
Therefore, one must take notice when the NYT published an editorial on April 11 entitled, "Torturing Children at School." One can be certain that the NYT, so squeamish about calling waterboarding torture, did not choose that word without much debate, making the implications of the editorial that much more damning and gruesome.
In particular, the NYT editorial board focuses on the practice of tasering even young students in many public schools, sometimes resulting in death:
Federal investigators have opened an inquiry into the tragic case of a high school student in Bastrop County, Tex., who suffered severe brain damage and nearly died last fall after a deputy sheriff shocked him with a Taser, a high voltage electronic weapon.
In North Carolina, civil rights lawyers have filed a complaint with the Justice Department, charging the Wake County school system with violating the constitutional rights of minority children by subjecting them to discriminatory arrest practices and brutality by police officers assigned to schools. In one nightmarish case described in the complaint, a disabled 15-year-old was shocked with a Taser three times during an interrogation at school, resulting in punctured lungs. And in New York, civil rights lawyers have sued the city of Syracuse on behalf of two students. One was shocked three times, not for threatening behavior but for lying on the floor and crying, they say, and another was shocked while trying to break up a fight.
The NYT adds, "Complaints about dangerous disciplinary practices involving shock weapons are cropping up all over the country. "
Ironically, Texas has prohibited the use of tasers in juvenile detention schools, but not in schools. Sadly, in both environments, young people are being criminalized.
This is hardly the environment for education that President Obama champions as a "race to the top." It is more like a descent into an authoritarian educational system that, according to no less than the NYT, tortures our children.
With the Bush and Obama administrations' push to make national testing norms (turning young people into automaton cogs ready to insert interchangeably into a corporate world) also comes the emphasis on harsh, cruel and even lethal treatment of any youth that gets on the wrong side of the growing police-state school system.
There are probably three key developments that have joined in a confluence to essentially militarize "discipline" in our schools: the so-called zero tolerance policy that began under Reagan; the post-9/11 acceptance of harsh "security" tactics; and the overall ramping up of police-state strategies in general. Add to those three that this abominable mistreatment is likely more prevalent in schools that serve poor students and students of color -- and you have the additional factor that these are young people who are disposable to society. To the likes of Paul Ryan and others, these students are bad apples (otherwise they would be from wealthy families) who deserve to rot. So what is a little tasering of an apple that has worms in the mind of a person with such cruel and self-serving thinking? However, we are talking about a child with a future if we would only cultivate and liberate education, not turn it into a system of incarceration in many cases.
The NYT editorial concludes: "School administrators need to reclaim responsibility for disciplinary matters from security or police officers, who too often treat students like criminals."
That observation, however, is incorrect. The criminalization of students of color and students who are not wealthy starts at the top. It's become an implicit tacit social policy of the ruling elite.
It is a grievous assault on the majority of children in the US.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.