School Discipline: Is it ever ok to physically restrain a student?


[School Foodies: This week I needed to step away from the 12-step program to school food recovery in order to address a burning issue that surfaced recently at my public middle school here in Oakland. It may in fact be something that you have dealt with before.]

This past week at my school, a security guard was put on administrative leave for physically restraining a middle-school student for a viscous verbal assault. As someone who has witnessed numerous harmful verbal and physical incidents with this particular student, it is difficult not to jump to the conclusion that the student deserved to be disciplined in this way. He told the security guard that ‘he fucked his mother’ after being told numerous times to be quiet and walk away. He then continued to taunt the security guard in front of other teachers and students.

However, after further reflection on this set of circumstances (and to add a twist here—this particular student is the grandson of the principal and has been given numerous second chances while other students who have committed lesser or equal offenses have been DHP’d or kicked out of the school), I snapped to the realization that of course we can’t put a hand on kids unless it is a matter of safety to others. By no means should we be sponsoring physical force in schools… Or should we? Are there extreme cases where without that physical force we actually enable the student in future situations and thereby cause future harm to the community?

The same student was rescued by the same security guard two weeks earlier when four gang members came to school to beat him up. One of these individuals is currently being held as a suspect in last week’s murder of a 13-year old on the streets of Oakland.

The security guard who physically restrained the student is on administrative leave, the student who verbally abused him is suspended until the end of the year, and there is a dead 13-year old whose suspected killer is a recent graduate of our middle school.

The dilemma that exists here is the question of consistent and clear discipline. I am sure all of you have knee-jerk reactions to physical discipline and realize the importance of a school-wide discipline policy. We live in a community where the concept of force even by police officers is highly frowned upon. So here is the question I’m struggling with: Is it ever appropriate at school to restrain a student who is verbally assaulting a teacher?  How do you strike a balance between keeping schools safe and ensuring productive and open learning environments?

Pedro Noguera’s New York City Middle School Task Force says (see p. 51-53) that in issues of safety and discipline, “…middle schools must establish meaningful disciplinary practices that effectively deter inappropriate or violent behavior.” It also calls for schools to be given resources to comply with the Safe Schools Against Violence Act including a ‘SAVE’ room, and for the clarification of educators’ role in school discipline.

In our school situation, this clarification is a grey area. I would be willing to bet that it is a grey area in most urban public schools. Do all of you know the rights of the teacher and the rights of the student around specific issues of discipline including issues of verbal and physical assault? Is there ever a case when we as teachers are permitted to put our hands on another student? I hope not. But then again, what are we supposed to do in this case, ask for clarification while a potential situation spirals out of control?

For those of you working in schools where discipline may not reach these extremes, this may seem like a protocol/policy issue. However, I am again reminded that this is an issue of equity, where urban public schools are being asked to deal with issues they have neither the resources or training to deal with. As public school budgets get slimmer, the chances of obtaining such resources dwindle.

What should happen to this student? What should happen to the security guard who is trying to ensure a ‘safe’ place for students? What can schools do to make sure that verbal and physical abuse doesn’t take place on their school campus? Should schools be responsible for students who are enabled by an institutional failure to address certain behavior? This is an issue that is burning out teachers and feeding into a society plagued by youth violence.



Filed under Classroom Reflections

65 responses to “School Discipline: Is it ever ok to physically restrain a student?

  1. How many violent incidents in schools arise each and every year in each and every city throughout this country from what initially started out as verbal confrontations- and were essentially allowed to escalate because students did not heed verbal warnings, and teachers were hesitant, conflicted or simply afraid to physically separate the dueling parties?

    I taught ED Spec Ed students in NYC and Oakland (forgive me for repeating my cred on your forum), and I often wondered what a disservice it is to grant students repeated warnings and slaps on the wrists both in the school and court systems for offenses that would not be tolerated by the criminal justice system once they become adults. Many become accustomed to said leniency, and are literally set up for one very rude awakening come adulthood.

  2. Cato

    We like to say that all children have a right to an education. That’s true as far as it goes, but with “rights” also come “responsibilities” — and in the case of children in school, the “responsibility” is to follow the rules and treat others with respect. Of course, the rules need to be reasonable and children (and their parents) need to be informed clearly what those rules are. In fact, the rules should be formulated at as local a level as possible – as they were in the days of true local control of public schools – so that the rules reflect the values of the community the school serves. Some will be stricter than others. Let a hundred flowers bloom and we’ll see what works best.

    Children being children, most won’t always follow the rules and may well not respect others. However, that’s why schools have sanctions to punish misbehavior. Minor misbehavior needs to be punished promptly and surely, though not harshly. Children need to learn, from the beginning, that actions have consequences. Setting limits on behavior and adhering to them is critical to providing the structure within which children can grow. The surer and swifter the reasonable punishment for minor misbehavior, the less likely that children will be inclined to serious misbehavior to ‘see if they can get away with it.’

    Respect is more difficult. You really can’t make someone respect another person. All you can do is require that they treat them as if they respect them and hope that the person to be treated with respect behaves in a way that will turn the outward show of respect into actual respect.

    Nonethless, we are sometimes faced with children who do not adhere (even with reasonable leeway and punishment) to minimal standards of behavior in school or even make the show of treating faculty, staff and other students with respect.

    At that point, I think it becomes more useful to talk about membership in any particular school community as a privilege. Gross or repeated misbehavior, and especially misbehavior that involves physical violence or bullying should be grounds for expulsion. And, to stop a student from such behavior in flagrante delictio, physical restraint may well be appropriate. Even spanking (which I think some states still permit) may be appropriate.

    When I was in school, in California in the Old Stone Age in the ’50s, when students got into the sort of disputes that lead to fights, the reaction was nuanced: bullying by large and aggressive children of small or timid children was discouraged and punished (often with some mentoring to the smaller child to help them gain self-defense skills or confidence as needed), but between more or less equals among the boys, PE teachers emphasized the notion of a ‘fair fight’ and even frequently arranged for the putative combatants to put on (heavily padded) boxing gloves and have it out under supervision, with the possibility of restraint if it threatened to get out of hand.

    I think we would be substantially better off if we combined stricter discipline with supervised outlets for (especially boys’) physical aggression.

  3. I find it funny that just a few days after a fellow writer said that homeschoolers were the ones that were maladjusted and that we have misconceptions about how wonderful government schools are, we read this.

    Anyway, I agree with above poster that the children are not receiving enough consequences. The school we left had this issue. The minority, low-economic children were often very violent. This is not surprising since 25% of the kids in the grade levels my kids were in had a immediate family member in jail (and that is just ones I knew about). Our school did not handle it very well. I saw kindergarteners tear up a room, throwing bookcases and attacking the teacher, running up and pushing kids into walls and knocking them down. No suspensions, etc. I saw first graders standing on the desk telling the teacher to kiss their ___, walk up and choke a student for no reason what so ever, throw chairs, knock over tables and bookcases resulting in injuries to other children that required to urgent care. No suspension. I have seen children knock the vice principal down flat. No suspension. I have witnessed gang fights (2nd graders) in the bathroom with no suspension. (However, I saw a non-minority special needs child get suspended for knocking a pencil basket off the table in an empty room). Instead of suspending these kids, they get put on the quarterly “school achiever” list because they had one good day. Each year it gets worse and worse to the point that the school has a hard time keeping teachers, especially in grades 3-5 when the kids are big enough to not be physically intimindated by a teacher. I’ve seen one classroom go through three teachers in one year. One teacher lasted two days! Teachers don’t like being pushed, shoved, cursed at, spit on, hit, etc with no recourse. (Though your colleague believes we homeschoolers are society phobic and doing our children a disservice for removing them for that environment).

    Children deserve to attend school in a place free of violence. Teachers need to be respected as human beings. If a child is consistently interfering with the safety and learning of others, then the adults involved need to examine why and either fix it or remove the child. By safety, I mean physical and well as mental. Verbal abuse and emotional abuse may not leave bruises but it’s just as damaging. You are not “safe” when someone is screaming and cursing at you or someone else. Therefore, I think the security guard was justified in removing the child in order to create a safe environment.

    • Elizabeth Conley

      Funny homeschooling story:

      3 months after I started homeschooling, I got a letter in my mailbox from the superintendent of schools. The letter informed me that the superintendent of schools was aware that my children were causing the educational environment to be unsafe. More correspondence was to follow.

      I was terrified. I wondered which of my neighbors, friends or family had complained about the children. I couldn’t imagine what the children could have done, so I had to conclude that there was either malice or irrational hysteria underlying the complain. I had no idea what to do, but I called HSLDA for help. They told me to calm down and wait for the correspondence to arrive.

      Two weeks later I get a letter calling me to a meeting at the local middle school. The staff was very upset, and a stern lecture had been prepared for all of the parents of the students. Teachers had been threatened and beat up. School property had been damaged and stolen. We needed to take control of our children!

      At first I was relieved to know the first letter was a mistake. The school system was so disorganized that that the fact that we were homeschooling had simply not trickled out of the office we had sent our notification to 5 months prior.

      Then I was outraged. We personally knew parents who had begged for help from the school. They had begged and pleaded with the school to take action to stop assaults on their children, damage to their children’s possessions and theft of their children’s school clothes and books. These parents had been treated to contempt and ridicule. They were accused of lying and exaggerating, or simply trying to cause trouble.

      Decent blue/pink collar families, desperate for a safe school to send their children, had literally fled the city, and in one case the state. After all, they didn’t just need a safe school, they needed to uproot their families and find homes and jobs in a community that had that kind of school. Failure of the school to address their concerns had taken a heavy toll on these families, and our community.

      Yes, it was funny to get a letter lecturing me on how awful my kids were from the Superintendent’s Office, but it wasn’t funny that the Superintendent hadn’t cared when parents were begging for protection for their kids. He only cared when teachers and school property were menaced.

      If he had cared back when we were still trying to work with him, things might not be so bad now.

  4. Cato

    I agree with Aunt Pol as well.

    A further thought about respect. We expect students to treat faculty, staff, and other students with respect. I believe that students and their parents, too, should be treated with proper respect by faculty and staff. Part of treating students with respect is (1) to insist that their learning environment be free from disruption and violence.

    It shows an utter lack of respect for the students who come to school for the purpose of learning and without any intention to grossly misbehave, and for their parents, to permit other students to interfere with the instructional process, act violently (verbally or physically) towards other students, faculty or staff.

    Those who misbehave should be first directed to the appropriate administrator for discipline. If a misbehaving student refuses to go, then an administrator should be summoned to remove the misbehaving student. If that is not safe or practical, then security, or, if necessary, the police, should remove the misbehaving student. If security or the police have to physically restrain the misbehaving student to end the disruption, so be it. The misbehaving student should not be allowed back into the classroom until he or she will commit to observance of the rules, and should be immediately removed if serious misbehavior reoccurs. Repeated serious misbehavior should result in expulsion.

    That demonstrates to the misbehaving student that his or her behavior will not be tolerated, and to the other students that their right to an education will be treated with respect.

  5. While I believe it’s absolutely crucial that there is a sense of order, safety and respect in each and every classroom- I really take exception to the inherent racism of Aunt Pol’s comment. I am not denying what she saw, but the implication that these behavior patterns are typical of “minority low-economic children” is racist to the core!

    If you’re going to attack the school system for its lack of safety and discipline, then attack and criticize the public officials and administrative hierarchy (usually white) that set policy that sends the most inexperienced and unqualified teachers to the poorest and most needy of communities, while the “better” teachers land the cushier, easier jobs in the more affluent suburbs (majority white). In other words, confront and deal with the inherent causes of the inequities you witnessed- instead of laying absolute blame on those who suffer the consequences of those corrupt and racist policies.

    BTW, suspension is not a magic cure all for inappropriate or violent behavior, but more of a rewarding time off from an environment that even offending students know is inherently unsafe.

    • Cato

      As my post indicates, I think suspension is more about maintaining a safe, orderly, learning environment for the other students and respecting their time and their right to learn.

      The punishment part of suspension for the suspended student is the loss of the opportunity to learn. Suspended students should not be given the opportunity to complete assignments missed during a suspension or to make up missing work without demonstrating good faith compliance with the acceptable norms of behavior. And, if a small number of suspensions does not cure the problem behavior, the student should be permanently expelled.

      You may be correct that some suspended students regard it as “a rewarding time off from an environment that even offending students know is inherently unsafe.” If that’s the case, however, it must be because administrators (and parents and teachers) tolerate misbehavior to a great degree.

      The notion that each child has a right to an education should not be a weapon to force the schools to tolerate misbehavior or to accomodate those who are disruptive or violent to the detriment of the others.

      • Cato, I find it curious that while you take exception to my passing observation on suspension, you twice fail to address the much larger and more pertinent issue of inherent racism so rampant in Aunt Pol’s initial comment…

        • Cato

          I’m not sure I’d say there was “rampant” racism in the comment if, as a matter of fact, those children who were violent were overwhelmingly ‘minority’ (whatever that means in the context).

          The values one needs to internalize to be successful in this society are primarily those of the nominally Judeo-Christian upper middle class, which include valuing education, hard work, honesty, obedience to law, deferred gratification, marriage, stability, etc. (and essentially independent of politics except those which explicitly reject the American consensus).

          I think that we do children from backgrounds in which values are not inculcated with their proverbial mothers’ milk a terrible disservice when we are not clear about those values being the basis of success in this society, or if we do not do our utmost to enable those children to imbibe those values if they are willing.

          In order to have high expectations for children, we have to have high expectations of them. They may well not be well equipped to meet those expectations when the come in the door, but our job as educators is to assist them in so doing.

          To me, true racism consists in excusing behaviors we would not find tolerable in our own children in children whose race or backgrounds differ. Not that we can expect the same prior or current experiences, of course, but we can hold the same standards as goals, even if we have to do more to enable the children to meet them.

          • “The values one needs to internalize to be successful in this society are primarily those of the nominally Judeo-Christian upper middle class…”

            And just look at what those wonderful Judeo-Christian morals and work ethics have spawned in Iraq- a lasting legacy of torture and indiscriminate killing for all the world to stand up and take note! Not to mention the absolute wonders it’s done for the middle class here at home.

            No, I didn’t expect you to see the inherent racism of Aunt Pol’s original comment- just like you failed to realize that the the very scenario you described in which suspension wouldn’t work is the very same environment in which her ultimate “solution” was- suspend, suspend, suspend!

            As I’ve said here before, there’s plenty of blame to go around: parents, teachers, administrators, elected officials and yes, children- of every stripe, color and denomination. Granted. But as long as we continue to ignore the root causes of our failed school system which ultimately lay at the very feet of the people who control it, the very same people whose values you’d have us internalize, we will continue to blame those least in power and continue down the path of separating “us” from “them.”

            • Cato

              Sigh….we’re talking past one another. Your approach has given us schools that are failing and out of control, where children don’t learn. You can look for root causes until the cows come home, or more aptly, until the chickens come home to roost, and you won’t be a jot closer to improving the kids that need the most help.

              • Well, we certainly agree we’re talking past each other. And I think we may actually agree on more issues than you realize. If a student needs to be restrained, he needs to be restrained- quickly, safely, efficiently. I’ve done it more times than I wish to recall teaching students officially classified as “Extremely Emotionally Disturbed & Socially Maladjusted.” But only a fool would suggest that not having some insight into that student’s behavior pattern would not provide a valuable tool for more effective behavior modification.

                We all know what happens when children are not held responsible for their actions. If adults were held responsible, the abomination known as No Child Left Behind would have never stood.

        • I wanted to thanks Stan for addressing the issue of racism on the original reply above-well said.

          I think I wanted to also respond to your post Cato about the school community tolerating certain behavior. It is hard to make the call about school discipline because by just expelling and suspending students-we become more like an assembly line than a school. I didn’t mention it in this post, however, I really think that the school community needs to come together to address these issues together-parents, teachers, administrators, and students to decide how to discourage this sort of behavior – more like preventative health care vs. antibiotics (for example).

          Thanks for your thoughts-If anything-this discussion has only added inquiry to this subject. What comes next?

          • Cato

            gehry: it’s hard to be nuanced in these short posts. I’m hardly a fan of “assembly line” style education, and I certainly realize (and welcome the fact) that children will not always behave well, and that boys especially often want to be physically more active than the school day tolerates. I suppose it’s a matter of judgment, really, in any given school, what the limits ought to be. Some students will always be more high spirited than others, and almost every student will have bad days. Good teaching and advising is working with students to channel these children into productive behaviors.

            Yet, it doesn’t always work. I’m also a firm believer that once a child’s behavior falls consistently outside of reasonable limits, it becomes imperative — out of respect for the teachers, and other students, to permit learning without disruption, and for everyone’s safety, and for other reasons I’m sure someone can come up with — to separate that child in such a way that he or she no longer is part of the school.

            You can certainly make some efforts to find ways of helping the misbehaving child, but you cannot lose sight of the primary mission to provide a safe environment conducive to learning to the vast majority of the students who want to learn. Even the best-funded public schools have limited resources, and it is unreasonable for the point of view of parents as a whole (and the taxpayers!) to allocated vastly disproportionate resources to ‘problem’ children while neglecting the bulk of the students.

            Explain the behavioral expectations and the consequences of flagrantly violating them. Work with the parents to the extent they’re will to work with the school. But, never forget the main duty is to the students (and faculty) who are doing their jobs day in and day out.

        • Why is it racist if it is true? If the kids that are causing disruptions are black, hispanic, white, low-income, have a parent in jail, or whatever, why is it racist to say it? If students come from a family or community system that does not support education or calls getting an education “acting white,” why can’t we talk about that and seek ways to deal with it? Why does it make me a racist to not want my kid to be in a system that spends so much time dealing with kids who have no desire to learn or even be in school? By the way, my kids were in a mostly white school and I don’t remember the problem kids being minority…they were usually white, poor and without a father in the picture. I guess now I am picking on single moms.

          • Jill

            I’ve never met a family that didn’t want a good education for their child or a child who didn’t want to learn.

            I think what might be the issue here is perspective. In my world view, I assume that families want to support their children. I assume that students want to learn.

            There is a complex legacy of racism in this country. And because of that legacy, school systems have become racialized. The systems are designed to work for some but not for others.

            If a student is consistently acting up, I ask myself, What is this child trying to tell me? Usually it is something like, “I’m scared,” “I don’t think I’m smart,” “I don’t know how to do this,” etc…

            Partly it is about a right to an education for all, but more importantly, for me, it is a moral obligation. I am not doing my job if I only serve the easy kids – the kids who have the privilege of two parents, of a history of quality education in their family, of safe housing, and healthy food, etc…

            I think it is total b.s. when teachers turn their backs on kids because they think they are too much work. It is a cop out to say that “they don’t want to learn.” It is against human nature for someone to not want to do what serves them best.

            To deny that there are social factors that perpetuate the inequitable system that we are a part of is irresponsible, immoral, and, frankly, by not confronting these issues, by remaining passive, we are contributing to racism, directly or indirectly.

          • Katie-
            If you read objectively at the comment
            “The minority, low-economic children were often very violent. This is not surprising since 25% of the kids in the grade levels my kids were in had a immediate family member in jail (and that is just ones I knew about).”
            That first sentence to me says that Pol thinks minority folks from low income neighborhoods are violent.
            I think it is important to acknowledge-as Stan did that this incriminates that group instead of illustrating the very important fact that most of these schools are run poorly-and often by white administrators. I am not sure if you live in an urban or rural setting-but I have to tell you that there is institutionalized racism present in almost every level of the education system-in fact I am comfortable saying that we are still living in a country that is separate and unequal across the board. I can’t spend too much time breaking this down for you-but if you are unable to identify the potential ‘racist’ nature of those comments-than I think we are coming from two very different places and I think it would be healthy to discuss that with your fellow teachers/peers.

            • Katie

              I don’t need you to break it down for me..thanks. I think her comments are potentially racist to those who see everything through that particular prism. I don’t. I grew up in an era of real racism. I remember separate restrooms and water fountains…I remember segregated schools. I was in the midst of the forced busing and school desegregation in the Charlotte Mecklinburg School System in the 70’s. We participated in the school boycott in 1970…for three days. My family made fun of me because I refused to use the “N-word.” I am not unfamiliar with racism.

              I see a very different world here in multicultural Central Florida. My ob/gyn is African American. The patients I see in his waiting room are from a variety of races and economic backgrounds. Our family has friends and co-workers of many races. My church is made up of white, Latino and African American members. Things have improved…not across the board, but they are much better.

              I do not see what Aunt Pol said as inherently racist. She spoke of a specific portion of a group in a specific place. If we cannot address those kinds of issues without being called racist, how will we ever be able to change anything?

              I don’t disagree that school systems are racist. I don’t know how to change that. I know that I was committed to raising my kids to be color blind. I sent my oldest off to school and she came home from first grade one day and told me that she hated black people. Now where did she get that? There was one little African American boy in her class and he misbehaved and she did not like it. We had a long conversation about why she thought he misbehaved and what she might do to help him be more comfortable in the class. They became friends. My other kids did not stay in the “system” long enough to come home with similar attitudes and amazingly enough, despite their sheltered existence in our little home school, they are open and tolerant to all kinds of people. Who’d a thunk it?

              So why is it, after years of the public schools teaching tolerance and diversity, the schools and society are still so racist? Perhaps Ms. Conley, in the post below, is right – throwing people of different ethnicities together when they are at their worst tends to reinforce racist stereotypes.

    • Elizabeth Conley

      Mr. Banos,

      A word or two about racism: throwing people of different ethnicities together when they’re at their worst tends to reinforce racist stereotypes.

      Putting a small minority of Hispanic, Asian and White blue-collar kids into a gang-infested 97% African-American school is a recipe for disaster. The racial tensions caused by the resultant criminal activity are nearly impossible to repair.

      The ideologues who imagine that simply throwing people of different ethnicities together will correct negative stereotyping are loons, plain and simple. I’d like to see them experience a good old fashioned beat-down themselves, just to see if they’re capable of common sense. (Inquirin’ minds wanna know just how stupid these fruit-pies are. Call it an experiment, if you will.)

      We can resent Aunt Pol’s forthright description of what she’s observed all we want. A bit of righteous indignation and a nice bottle of warm milk should lull our consciences back to sleep.

      Real children are being assaulted and traumatized. This isn’t a philosophical debate about race, it’s a matter of criminal law. Is assault a crime? Is battery a crime? Is theft a crime? If these acts are crimes, then in an equitable society, they’re crimes regardless of the color of the perpetrator and the victim.

      Funny story from my mis-spent youth:

      When I was a young Marine, a LCpl named Joe Caravella was the shop party animal. He drank like a fish, drove his car like he stole it, and once hung a larcenous PFC out of a 3rd story barracks window by his heals. Joe never made Cpl. Fighting, drinking and collecting traffic tickets were far greater lures to him than the responsibilities of more rank. Joe was a hard worker, but notorious for his poor judgment.

      Any how, Joe was partying in a downtown Newport News after hours club on the night of a full blown riot and looting episode. Joe was Italian, and realized he was at least 20 city blocks from safety. He dodged, ran and crept only 3 blocks before a retired Marine collared him, thrust a twenty in his hand and told him to hide nearby until a cab arrived. The old veteran had called the only cab service that dared venture there that night, and they smuggled that “stupid white boy” back to the Naval Air Station.

      Mature black men protected the hard-partying, admittedly foolhardy white man from getting badly beaten by a mob looking for someone like Joe to vent their anger on. For people of good character, racial identity never trumps ethics.

      That’s the America I’m proud to be part of. These are the types of adults I want my children to look to as role models. We need people like in the leadership of our public schools.

      • I think we all have a few choice anecdotes, agree with much of what you said, and hope you read my reply to Aunt Pol dated 6/07. Unfortunately, one of the major reasons that the public school system remains in the shambles that it is throughout much of this country is that it is seen as an institution of last resort- particularly in urban areas. If white folk can’t send their child to a predominantly white public school, you know they’ll send them to a private school if they have the money, or move if they can at least afford to do that. And I’m not going to lecture you about the obvious inequities and inequalities of white suburban schools v black and hispanic inner city schools. As long as those disparities are allowed to continue, very much separate and unequal, our public school system will remain broken, ineffective and inherently racist.

        • Elizabeth Conley

          We need to address the real problems with failing schools, which have nothing to do with skin color. The polemic squawking about the unfairness of racial politics is a red herring that detracts from effective problem solving strategies.

          Effective parents ignore all that silly dysfunctional drama. They remove their children from failing schools. They do whatever it takes. Some effective parents are White, some are Black, some are Asian and some are Hispanic. They don’t care if the successful school they place their child in will make their child part of the ethnic majority at that particular school or not. As long as their child isn’t going to be assaulted, hazed or stolen from over racial issues, all the effective parent cares about is the quality of the education.

          Protestant, Jewish and Atheists place their children in Catholic schools. They do this for the quality of the education. Black parents flee to white suburbs for the quality of the schools. They want their kids to get an education, and not be beaten up for “acting White”.

          It’s not “acting White” to want an education. It’s not “acting White” to behave yourself in school. Effective parents know what their kids need, and being alternately abused and ignored for being well behaved is not what their kids need.

          Well behaved students with a good teacher are easy to educate under stark conditions, with little or no material assets. Badly behaved students are hard to educate, no matter how much money you throw at the problem. The racial composition of the people involved is irrelevant.

          As long as we call failing American schools a racial problem, instead of a bad behavior problem, we fail to define the problem accurately.

          Until we define the problem accurately, we can’t fix it.

          Want to solve the problem?


          Start by defining the problem accurately.

          Then come up with strategies that directly address the problem you’ve defined.

          Keep what works; discard what doesn’t.

          Try, try, and try again. Don’t give up.

          As long as you know what your problem is, you really want to solve the problem, and you know how to solve problems, you’ll do just fine.

          Ask any effective parent. They’ll tell you the same thing. Ignore the drama; solve the problem. If you get distracted by the drama, the problem will own you.

          • If I had a son or daughter in a failing school, I too would engage in whatever option necessary. But surely, you must realize that every time this occurs, we weaken the public school system even further. Running away from the problem may temporarily solve your problem, it won’t solve THE problem.

            I had one (1) white student in twelve years of teaching ED students in NYC, fortunately he could take care of himself- obviously, he came from a background that didn’t have the aforementioned options. Do you really think that in twelve years there weren’t more white students who misbehaved to the point that they would have ordinarily ended up in our all ED school? Please.

            I’m not excusing the (mis)behavior of any student- of any race! But if you really want to get to defining and solving the problem as you so state, then you must come to the realization that racism is very much part of the mix, not THE sole factor, but one of the major players. To deny that is to continue down the path of failure we find ourselves in…

            • Elizabeth Conley

              “Running away from the problem may temporarily solve your problem, it won’t solve THE problem.”

              Nope, running away from the problem permanently solves YOUR problem. That is, if your problem is finding a decent school for your child. Find a decent school for your child, and YOUR problem is solved. Leave your kid in a bad school, and you don’t fix ANY problems.

              “Do you really think that in twelve years there weren’t more white students who misbehaved to the point that they would have ordinarily ended up in our all ED school? Please. ”

              I have no idea what percentage of badly behaved kids are white, blue, orange or green. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. If a kid won’t behave, don’t point at his skin, it’s not the problem. Focus on his behavior. It’s the behavior that is the problem.



              Please stop making simple behavior problems insoluble by focusing on race.

              Does it benefit an ED white child not to be placed in an ED class?


              Who’s being discriminated against here?

              Let’s get our arguments straight, if we can. You’re complaining because white kids can’t get appropriate placement in an ED class?

              Look what happens when people focus on race, instead of behavior.

              All of a sudden, nothing makes sense. If you take one nonsensical premise, and try to build reasonable arguments with it, you end up with obviously ridiculous statements. Claim that racial discrimination is the problem, and all sorts of fallacies follow.

              Focus on the real problem. Ignore the melodrama of race politics. The problem isn’t race. The problem is misbehavior.

              Solve the behavior problem. The percieved racial problem will vanish like the chimera it is.

              • Behavior is consequent to cause. Action precedes reaction. Simple science. Much more effective to diffuse the bomb- rather than dealing with the mess it leaves afterwards. You may prefer to deal with the pieces, I rather address it as a whole.

  6. Pingback: 52 Churches » Blog Archive » Physical Restraint and Verbal Assault

  7. mtgstuber

    I think answer to the question of if or not a security guard should be allowed to “physically restrain a middle-school student for a viscous verbal assault?” lies in the answer to this question:

    Should the security guard be allowed to physically restrain a colleague for the same offense?

    In your somewhat vague recounting of the events, the child in question “told the security guard that ‘he [the child? the guard?] fucked his [the child’s? the guard’s?] mother’ after being told numerous times to be quiet and walk away.”

    Whichever it was (“I fucked your mom” or “You’re a mother-fucker”) obviously upset the security guard, whose initial response (Be quiet. Go away.) wasn’t wholly inappropriate. (But does beg the question — what precipitated this exchange?)

    But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that, feeling frisky and put out, I, an adult, tell this security guard that I think he’s a “mother-fucker.” He’s likely to take the same offense to my comment, but he’s not likely to attempt to physically restrain me, now is he?

    And I think that’s where the answer to this question lies: not in the socio-economic make up of the neighborhood of the school, the particulars of the student’s genealogy, or the unfortunate criminal activities of other students. Verbal assault (or, as a citizen of the United States of America might call it, “the exercise of free speech under the Constitution of the United States of America”) is not sufficient reason to resort to physical assault (which is what my lawyer would probably consider laying hands on me).

    The guard did manage to prove, conclusively, that he is indeed a mother-fucker (in the colloquial sense that he’s a jerk). He also managed to aptly demonstrate to this particular student, and who witnessed it, and any who have heard of it, that physical force is an appropriate response to speech you don’t like.

    • Not saying you’re necessarily wrong… but I’d really like to hear how you would have handled the situation. Remember, he was repeatedly warned to tone it down (and refused), was repeatedly told to leave (and also refused). The student’s response was to escalate his abuse. This is a student who knows his ass is covered by the principal and can pretty much have run of the place. He’s able to pull things off there, he wouldn’t dare think of doing on the street.

      Meanwhile, the security guard (who literally saved this miscreant’s life previously, and has already asked him to leave) has to stand there and take further, more hostile abuse, proving that you can taunt and abuse adults to your delight and that they are basically powerless to stop it (thus encouraging further and even more abusive, possibly violent behavior in later confrontations) and that his role in providing any kind of “security” is basically a joke .

      Had he pounced on the kid at the start, that would definitely have been excessive and unprofessional. Personally, after repeated warnings, I think that guard would have been negligent in not restraining and removing said student.

      • mtgstuber

        I disagree with your assessment of the situation as I understand it. The guard’s initial response was to escalate the situation; the student responded in kind.

        I think it is rarely appropriate, as the adult in an interaction, to bait, escalate, or otherwise engage in a pissing contest with an adolescent. It’s especially inappropriate for an adult who is hired to work with adolescents to do so.

        A standing army will eventually be turned on the population it was originally convened to protect . . . what is the thinking that goes into setting up an adversarial relationship between students and security guards? How does a security guard coming down on a student for what the student has said make anyone safer or provide security to anyone at the school? How did the job of security morph from being one of providing a safe place to study to being one of policing the children?

        I think the security guard should have diffused the situation rather than escalated it. I have had, in my years as professor, as well as my time in customer service, had a number of times where infuriated persons have screamed at me for a variety of reasons — and in each case, I diffused the situation, generally by referring the person to the dean, or my boss.

        “Ah, young peacocking boy, I can see that you feel I am a mother-fucker, and I am sorry that you feel that way. If you’d like to discuss my performance with my boss, here’s h** contact information. Better yet, I shall use my trusty radio to summon my boss, and you can discuss my job performance and lodge a complaint right now.”

        Such a cordial invitation, delivered with a smile, has the most sail-deflating effect. The diffusing adult in the situation has acknowledged the issue, and provided a clear path to resolution. Even the most riled up boy with a chip on his shoulder is generally going to decline the offer. Or, he might take the security guard up on the offer, and express to the (head of security/principal/superintendent) that he feels the security guard is, indeed, a mother-fucker, and the conversation can go from there.

        Telling the kid to shut up and go away is just not really every going to work, kwim?

      • Bridget

        Ah, but Stan, this specific problem has it’s own built in solution. You have made it clear that the problem stems in part from this child’s belief that his grandfather, the principal, will protect him. In this case, the only viable solution is to make the cause of the problem, the answer to the problem. Every time this child misbehaves, the principal should be summoned (and immediately, not after the situation has escalated) because frankly he and not the child is the source of the problem and he will only figure that out if the problem is dropped squarely into his lap for him to resolve.

        • Bridget- Not having all the facts, I’m going to assume(out of respect to intelligent educators everywhere) that some bright teacher already considered and tried this. And I’m going to further assume that the principal in charge (who has already proven where his loyalties lie) is sharp enough to delegate his authority to the VP, counselor or other middleman to deal with said issue. Hopefully, this is the incident that helps break the camel’s back.

          I’m often reminded of the people who’d conduct behavior management workshops. They would happily dispense all sorts of guaranteed behavior/classroom management advice and techniques which were fine for novice teachers or those in “less restrictive environments.” These people would always be cheery and upbeat- they had a nice cushy gig handing out formulaic advice that kept them out of the trials and tribulations of the classroom frontlines. Of course, whenever someone responded that they had already tried said technique to no avail, they immediately got uncomfortable, curt and disagreeable- and began to look like they were actually… working.

          This armchair analyzing can be helpful and productive, but teachers often have to operate in grey areas of split second decisions that occur in unwritten and sometimes unimagined scenarios. Hopefully, at year’s end, most of those decisions will have been proven right.

    • Cato

      mtgstuber wrote: “Verbal assault (or, as a citizen of the United States of America might call it, “the exercise of free speech under the Constitution of the United States of America”) is not sufficient reason to resort to physical assault (which is what my lawyer would probably consider laying hands on me).”

      Actually, that’s not quite true. The law protects your right to utter (most) speech (i.e. you are free from prior restraint on speech), but does not always protect you from the consequences of having done so. The classic example is shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater – which is criminally punishable virtually everywhere. Likewise, libel and slander laws, though cumbersome, survive under the Constitution, though in very weak form for public figures.

      Then there’s what’s known as the “fighting words” doctrine out there rolling about that might (depending on just what was said and what jurisdiction it was said in) legally excuse (if not justify) the the security guard’s reacting to you with reasonable force.

      I think that if (as I think many of us surmised, but you’re right the language was quite ambiguous) the student said something on the order of “I (student) f*cked your (guard’s) mother” there is a pretty good chance in most places that the physical restraint of the student by the guard was excusable. Even in your “you’re a motherf*cker” example from one adult to another, it is not so obvious that a physical response from the other adult would not be considered legally excusable (though, again, it would depend on the totality of the circumstances and the jurisdiction – how an incident will be viewed at law is often much more complicated than we think sitting in our armchairs.)

    • Another really happy gamer and audiophile here!

      Thanks for having these released!

  8. Wow! At first, I was pretty much called a bleeding heart liberal, and now I’m a fascist- all from one post!

    As you initially indicated, details here as to the actual event are scant. You’re assuming the guard said something “to escalate” the situation. I don’t see that anywhere in the original post. I was merely going by the information provided- that he was told to “quiet down” repeatedly, and then to leave. The security guard may well have attempted to diffuse the situation in the precise manner you prescribed. I’d be surprised if he hadn’t, since many security guards come from similar backgrounds and know what time it is. And I’m sure he also was very much aware of the relationship between said student and the principal. And I’m also betting he didn’t want to do something, anything that would potentially jeopardize his livelihood- as it surely did. Truth is, neither of us know, do we?

    I learned early on (as you rightly state), that humor can be a very potent tool in diffusing confrontations. Sometimes. But for someone who takes such apparent joy at spewing such venomous hate speech (again, at someone who literally saved his life), and has no reason whatsoever to fear anything in his protected domain, it seems (again from the scant details provided) that this fellow was hell bent on getting his way. He had no reason to “compromise.” Fact is, in his twisted mind, he was probably putting down this guard because he had lost face when he had to be rescued by him. Again, we are both speculating.

    And this is where I go full circle back to my original comment. Do we really best serve our students by continually making nice with them, and then expecting them to function in a society that does anything but? Yes, appeal to whatever fosters greater understanding, insight and trust.
    But there must also be some balance, some common ground, yes, some attempt at nurturing self discipline where they gradually learn how to deal with society in a more reflective, productive manner. Sometimes, that also means that they have to learn the meaning of “no,” without the niceties. To do anything less is akin to setting them up…

    • mtgstuber


      I think you misunderstand me.

      I’m saying that the guard initially telling the kid to be quiet and to walk away is the escalation–no assumptions there; I’m saying that the details given constitute escalation.

      But my original questions remain unanswered:

      Would the security guard be allowed to physically restrain a colleague for the same offense?

      Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the security guard saved my life, and, instead of being grateful, I’m just set on making an ass of myself and I, an adult, tell this security guard that I think he’s a “mother-fucker.”

      He’s likely to take the same offense to my comment, but he’s not likely to attempt to physically restrain me, now is he? Even if I am slanderous, or libelous, he’s still not going to (legally or morally) exert physical force to make me stop. (Or rather, if he does, I’ll be countering his civil suit with a criminal one, right?)

      A standing army will eventually be turned on the population it was originally convened to protect . . . what is the thinking that goes into setting up an adversarial relationship between students and security guards? How does a security guard coming down on a student for what the student has said make anyone safer or provide security to anyone at the school? How did the job of security morph from being one of providing a safe place to study to being one of policing the children?

      • Again- neither of us knows exactly what transpired, or was said or done to either appease or “antagonize” this individual. As for replacing what is essentially a hypothetical situation (due to lack of relevant details) with yet another twice removed…

      • Michelle in GA

        “Would the security guard be allowed to physically restrain a colleague for the same offense?”

        If the circumstances were the same, I’d say definitely. If your co-worker got in multiple fights with other co-workers, was bullying others, and making everyone around them to feel unsafe because of his angry, fractic actions, then by all means. Please, Mr. Security Guard…restrain this guy before he pulls a gun!

        However, in the real world he would have been fired a long time ago, had a restraining order put on him, and told not to come within 100ft of the facility.

        How must the other students feel to know that this student continues to be there. How would you feel if your co-worker who did all that this kid, still worked with you?

        • mtgstuber

          The only thing the original says that the student did was He told the security guard that ‘he fucked his mother’ after being told numerous times to be quiet and walk away. He then continued to taunt the security guard in front of other teachers and students.

          There’s no “multiple fights with other co-workers, was bullying others, and making everyone around them to feel unsafe because of his angry, fractic actions,” or even any hint of guns or violence committed by the student who was restrained. Just an uncouth tongue lashing by an adolescent.

          In the “real world” judges don’t issue restraining orders for people who talk trash–and that’s all the original indicates the student did.

          That is why I ask the question of the applicability of using physical force against some one whose only “infraction” is verbal . . . because we don’t do that to adults.

          People get mad and say stupid shit. I’ve had plenty of coworkers who have done that. I don’t fear them. They usually get the original issue resolved. And I still don’t think that physical force is an appropriate response to verbal volleys.


          • Michelle from GA

            I quote from the original article:

            “The same student was rescued by the same security guard two weeks earlier when four gang members came to school to beat him up. One of these individuals is currently being held as a suspect in last week’s murder of a 13-year old on the streets of Oakland.”

            This child had a history of being violent.

            • mtgstuber

              How do you make the jump from being rescued from gang members to having “a history of being violent”?

              I think the only thing you can legitimately read into this is that this child has a history of running his mouth at the wrong people.

              We also have the indication, by the security guard’s initial response (telling him to be quiet and walk away) that the security guard did not perceive him to be a physical threat to himself or others. It’s only in his refusal to obey the guard that he (the guard) decided to further escalate the situation by turning physical.

              There is no indication at all in the original that this child has been at all violent himself. Stupid, yes. Rude, yes. Ungrateful, definitely . . . but violent just isn’t there.

              This is why I asked the question couched in terms of adults. If, given what we do know, an adult were having it out verbally with the guard, would the guard resort to physical restraint?


              • Michelle in GA

                I went to a public school with gangs…and there was a reason that gangs looked for fights with certain people…and it’s not because they were peaceful.

                It’s not leap to assume this kid was already up to no good. His dubious character, coupled with his extreme verbal abuse and anger would definitely make me feel insecure!

                I have had co-workers get angry. I’ve heard them express their anger with profanity. I’ve never had a co-worker act like this kid.

                It would not surprise me a bit, if this kid, who’s been “rescued” from multiple gang violence attacks, has already been given “multiple second chances” for things the writer deemed as more severe than what other students had done who had been suspended or “DHP’d”.

                Look at this kids overall character. Does this sound like a non-violent, wants-to-learn, no-threat-to-anyone, kind of student to you?

                If I were that kids parent, I would have thanked that security guard. This kid could have potentially learned a very valuable lesson from this whole incident, without being harmed. He could have learned that he should pick his battles. He could have learned that he needs to control his temper, because others will not put up with his behavior.

                If I were one of the other parents, I’d feel like that school just got a little bit less safe, because this security guard is gone.

              • Michelle in GA

                Oops, I didn’t finish my statement.

                “It would not surprise me a bit, if this kid, who’s been “rescued” from multiple gang violence attacks, has already been given “multiple second chances” for things the writer deemed as more severe than what other students had done who had been suspended or “DHP’d”, will later be involved in some sort of serious crime or bringing a gun to school.”

                I also hit the submit button a little too soon.

                I wanted to point out that this kid has now learned that he can get away with stuff.

                Sure, he might get “suspended”…but the OTHER guy that he was verbally abusing got suspended too!

                He learned that he can do stuff over and over, with very little consequences.

                He has now felt the power of his own kind of vindication.

                In short, this grandfather/principal has now helped create a convict.

  9. Interesting – respect for teachers, respect for other students’ right to a safe environment, etc. Has anyone asked that kid why he’s so pissed? Could it be that having books lobbed at his head in the name of learning doesn’t really appeal to him right now?

  10. Michelle in GA

    I’ve always thought it was odd that people thought that the “right” to an education meant that they should be forced to receive an education.

    As a homeschooler I believe parents have a responsibility to teach these kids to behave. However, when kids are in a public school, the school has these kids more than the parents. So if they can’t teach them proper behavior, than I think they should be kicked out of school.

    Does that seem unfair to you? I think it’s unfair that the kids who want to learn can’t because of these disruptive kids.

    As to the original question, YES. I believe their is a time and place to restrain a child.

    • Michelle-
      thanks for your response.
      You have to then be able to answer the question of how to address the future for the student that gets ‘kicked out’. More often than not there is a something that is missing from that students life-whether it is parents, love, or economic freedom-
      Yes it is unfair that kids who want to learn.

      The idea that we just lock up, expel, or suspend this student is not getting to the source of what is causing this situation.
      And as wonderful as homeschooling is for parents who don’t trust public schools, it is not an option for many.

      • Michelle in GA

        I agree that it’s not getting to the source of this problem. I also agree that if a child is suspended or kicked out of school, their future is questionable.

        But I ask you these questions in response.

        1. Is it okay to sacrifice the safety or learning environment of the children who genuinely want to learn, in pursuit of the few kids who are trouble makers (for whatever reason)?

        2. If this child is left in school, is he not learning that he can live contrary to the rules of normal society, therefore enforcing the behavior problem?

        3. If left in school will this child *really* learn anyhow? I’d venture to say that this young man (and others like him) do not really want to learn, so school is a waste of time for him, especially at the highschool level. I have long thought that you can “lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”.

        Most teachers do a GREAT job with their students. It’s the few bad apples that give teachers a bad name. But that being said, you can’t reach them all! If you focus on the ones who don’t want to learn, you are bound to lose some of the ones who do want to learn. To me, that’s not acceptable.

        As a foster parent, I’ve had these kinds of kids in my home, so I have an idea of what you are talking about. s

        I would like to say that I don’t believe that race or family income has anything to do with how these kids fare in school. I personally believe that it has more to do with family culture myself. If the family values education (and that can happen irregardless of race or economic status) AND good behavior…it’s a winning combo. But neither of these can a teacher control. Yes, occassionally you’ll find an exception (meaning, you’ll find a family who does not value education or good moral behavior and yet they have a child that does). But over all, that’s rare.

        And for one other rambling thought (if you read this boring post this far, have yourself a cup of coffee and a cookie, lol) I think you see parents of affluent children who are the same way. Meaning they have little regard for education. Their parents will be the ones “buying” their kids into college…

        • Michelle in GA

          Okay, just one other thing…

          After seeing so many foster children in my home, I have increasingly become convinced that the families individual culture does more to determine their economic status in the future than their current race or economic status.

          Kapeesh? Family culture effects the way they think, their values and goals, which then effects their likelihood to get a good education, make a higher income, etc.

          It’s NOT the other way around. Being black and poor does not make one…well, poor. The families attitude will have the most impact in the kids future.

      • Michelle in GA

        Okay, sorry to be filling up your comments so fast, but I forgot to tell you that I don’t expect everyone to homeschool. It’s not for everyone.

        And, btw, it’s not just about not trusting public schools:)

      • Elizabeth Conley

        “The idea that we just lock up, expel, or suspend this student is not getting to the source of what is causing this situation.”

        The nanny state needs to get over itself. Government cannot solve every problem. Place the child who can not or will not behave in a classroom with other children who can not or will not behave.

        That’s life. You want to expose kids to real life? Fine. In real life, if you can not or will not behave, you find yourself almost exclusively in the company of people who can not or will not behave. It’s only in the public schools that conduct disordered children (the precursor to anti-social personality disorder) have the “right” to constant access to their victims. Full inclusion for budding sociopaths is insane! In real life, potential victims avoid sociopaths, psychopaths and other high drama individuals. In real life, people who behave badly enough end up incarcerated with other criminals.

        If you want to help conduct disordered children, take them into a separate classroom, and begin to apply some behavioral modification. Conduct disordered children don’t need well-behaved children to abuse. They need to stop abusing people, before it becomes a lifelong habit. Since socialization is the be-all and end-all of public school, try socializing some kids who actually need it!

        Don’t play fiddle music and shed crocodile tears for the less fortunate, take a course of action that has some hope of success. If helping conduct disordered kids is important, then actually help them. Quit enabling.

        • They most assuredley do have Spec Ed classes for “Emotionally Disturbed “students in the public school system. And as can be expected- they are understaffed, underfunded and well below the concerns of most officials and members of the public…

  11. I apologize if I come across as racist for noting my observations of our particular school. I should have also noted that is was a magnet school so there were two populations: poor and black base population and white, upper middle class magnet students. I can not force one group of children to behave violently and another group to not behave violently to make my observations politically correct. It just so happened that every single violent act that I witnessed was done by a minority, low income student and done on a consistent basis. The only child I ever saw suspended for “violent” misbehavior was a non-minority, higher income 6 yo child with AdHD and Aspergers (one and only time knocking a basket off the desk in an otherwise empty room being the violent crime there). I also guess I didn’t make myself clear on how poorly the school handled discipline. The school administration (equally represented racially) had two sets of rules. In order to not APPEAR racist, the school did not suspend black students. They created special false self-esteem awards that were required to be given to black students (I sat on the committee that decided this but was outvoted for wanting standards), only books allowed to be read were ones that feature a black child or an animal, all biography research projects were required to be about a black person, only assembly held was black history assembly, only song required to stand at attention for was black national anthem, etc. I don’t know what you would do but if my child came home and told me that he could write a report on anyone he wanted as long as that person were white, I’d be having a proverbial cow!!! Teachers would be reprimanded for sending a black student to the office but walk in the office any day and you would find a white child sitting there. The excuses given in the office was that “they couldn’t help it” and can’t be expected to behave because they were poor and minority and victims of circumstance. The white children were labeled “bad” because they should be able to meet a higher set of behavioral standards by merely being white. Now you can call me racist all you want, but promoting one race to the exclusion of the other races and cultural groups and making excuses that someone can not control their actions because of their race is what I call racist!

    The bottom line is that we can not permit elementary children to misbehave without consequences by making excuses for their race, economic status, age, cuteness or whatever excuse you want to create and then turn around and expect them to magically turn into well-behaved teenswhen they get to high school and then later be adults capable of being productive assests to our society. Furthermore, by excusing behaviors over and over and over, we are keeping dozens of other children from being adequately educated and we are doing the offending child a disservice by not allowing them to have the security that comes with having boundaries. This goes for inner city youth and pampered socialites whose parents rush in and “clean up” their messes by throwing some money around and everyone of every color between.

    • Aunt Pol- Thanks for responding. I don’t doubt the veracity of what you witnessed. Sometimes the reactions and consequences to centuries of the most brutal kinds of abuse imaginable can be well meaning, but clumsy, misguided or heavy handed- particularly when politics and bureaucracies are involved. It’s a hard balancing act, centuries v a few decades. I would wish the road to righting past wrongs was a smoother one, that we’ve all learned from our past mistakes- but where humans roam…

      • Elizabeth Conley

        Schlop, schlop, beautiful schlop. Beautiful schlop with a cherry on top!”

        Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!

        Of course, thinkers could come up with something better to correct inequality than more inequality, if they weren’t so fond of schlop!

    • Elizabeth Conley

      “promoting one race to the exclusion of the other races and cultural groups and making excuses that someone can not control their actions because of their race is what I call racist! ”

      …and you’re dead right.

      When people feel inadequate, they build some artificial construct to make themselves feel better. They decide that there’s something special about being white, black, male, female, pretty, handicapped, athletic, a member of the Y’all Come Hither Slap-dis Church or whatever, and they expect to be catered to based on this distinction.

      Discrimination furthers this problem, causing what could otherwise be remedied to remain a self-perpetuating cycle.

      Now I’m not saying we should go around puncturing this puffery for no reason, but wouldn’t it be better to help insecure people achieve something genuine to feel good about?

      The more that can be done to help a population or individual attain an accurately positive view of self, the better.

      • Here, here! I’m all for “puncturing the puffery” in exchange for real change, addressing real needs. Unfortunately, puff is often the only item offered on the “change menu.”

        • Elizabeth Conley

          Y’know Stan, you’re right about that. It’s more than a little scary.

          Personally, I think we should treat conduct disorder as aggressively as we know how, with every weapon at our disposal. The trouble is, the best treatment model we have, behavior modification, is complicated in the case of conduct disorder.

          They type of feedback that works best in behavior modification is rewards for good behavior. Punishments for bad behavior are significantly less helpful, so much so that one really needn’t bother. Unfortunately, kids with conduct disorder find witnessing distress rewarding.

          This means that treating the conduct disorder with behavior modification requires a great deal of labor, money and a very proficient staff.

          Treating conduct disorder is important because conduct disorder often proceeds adult sociopathy.

          Further, conduct disordered kids take their toll on the psyche’s of their peers:

          Even though we don’t have all the answers, and certainly don’t have a cheap, easy fix, we should start routinely treating conduct disorder. We can’t know exactly what it costs not to treat it, but it’s got to be pretty expensive.

  12. Elizabeth Conley

    I haven’t answered the question, “Is it ever appropriate to physically restrain a student?”

    Of course it is. My kids know that those who fail to exercise self-discipline will inevitably suffer the imposition of external discipline. It’s the way of the world.

    I feel for the security guard. I’m a good shot with several different handguns, an M16 and my beloved Civil War Era muzzle loader. I’m fond of my Bo staff, and pretty much see every tool with a long handle as a potential lethal weapon. I have several recently acquired Judo throws and a beautifully subtle Jujitsu technique I’m longing to try on a sincerely resisting partner. I haven’t sparred in weeks. If somebody wanted to fight, it would take at least 3 rounds before I could quit grinning. (I would seriously sulk if someone promised a fight, and then backed down. Now that would be mean!)

    When physical combat is part of your job, and you’ve learned to love your work, it’s hard to remember that there are other tools in your arsenal. It takes a while to teach law-enforcement personnel how to use deescalation. (Some never catch on.) Guards are usually under trained, and this is a real problem. De-escalation training is intensive, and needs to occur over a period of weeks. Even after it’s completed, personnel need refreshers, and should do scenario drills over and over again. They need to reinforce what they’ve learned and make it second nature.

    I really don’t blame the security guard. He did what came naturally, based on his training and his values. It made sense to him to defend the kid from gangsters, and it made sense to him not to permit the kid to verbally abuse anyone, particularly an authority figure. The guard was right on both counts.

    The problem came in procedure. The guard needed to instruct the student to go to the office to face natural consequences for the verbal assault. The guard then needed to make sure the student made it to the office. If it was necessary to physically transport the resisting student to the office, then the guard needed to call back-up. A minimum of three guards are needed to provide the back up. The original officer should remain on his post, the other two should remove the badly behaved student.

    All of the students need to understand that the verbally abusive student is not engaged in a personal conflict with an individual guard. The verbally abusive student is simply breaking the rules and facing natural consequences for his bad behavior.

    Furthermore, verbally abusing a guard cannot be a ruse for creating a diversion that permits accomplices to commit a more serious infraction.

    Thus, the additional two guards are critical to success. They provide overwhelming force, they are better able to execute deescalation, and they prevent the possibility of an initially minor infraction becoming a large number of major infractions committed by a mob of students.

    I doubt this school had sufficient security staff, training or good enforcement procedures in place. Scape-goating the security guard only puts a bandage on the PR problem. Short-sighted, arrogant school administrators tend to see any criticism of their practices as a mere PR problem. This protects their egos, but leaves the staff and students wide open to repeated crimes of property and person. The school administrators need to get training their security personnel, allow their trained personnel to institute good procedures, and hire more if they are needed.

  13. So for those of you that are still paying attention here-

    I myself have come full circle on this issue-and think that use of physical force at school should never be used unless their is a clear and present physical danger to another student or staff member-obviously that is up for interpretation-but after further discussion with respected teachers-that is now clear to me.

    Also-the security guard was cleared of any wrong doing in this situation by a review board and is now trying to determine whether he wants to return to the school environment that embraced him earlier.

    And the student-well we are still waiting to see what happens to him.

    Last week of school-let them know how special they are!

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  15. Hi I love the site its great

  16. Annya

    In the UK teachers (we dont have school security guards) can physically restrain students who are causing, or trying to cause, themselves or another person serious physical harm.

    I think this is a good rule, but should be used only where absolutely necessary and the safest thing to do.

  17. Pingback: Restrained discipline | Fyrtalox

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