Our school has a ritual, a long-standing one. We start the announcements with the pledge. For the first five years of my employment, it was an enjoyable thing. Everyone stood up. If a kid didn’t stand up, the teacher exhorted him or her jovially, and the kid stood up, whining. It took less than a minute.
Cue Colin Kaepernick and his foolish, self-destructive campaign. Many football players started “taking a knee”, which was fine. Stupid, but fine. But then other kids would just refuse to stand up. Teachers would, as usual, exhort the kids to get up, and they usually would. Until a parent got the superintendent involved, and the superintendent sent out a note saying that under no conditions could a teacher require a student to stand up. These kids, by the way, are not even remotely interested in the NFL and why Kaepernick is taking a knee. They have all sorts of reasons from “I hate Trump” to “The flag’s racist” to “I just want to sit and look at my phone”.
To me, that’s bullshit. It’s our school ritual. If we can’t tell the kids to stand, or kneel, and the kid is allowed to sit on his or her phone during the Pledge, then what’s the point of the Pledge? So I take phones away from kids and they go screaming to the admins, but the admins are firm, so far–the teacher can’t tell you to stand, but the teacher can take your phones.
Most of the time it’s been ok, and I’ve gotten around it, but this semester I’ve got a class of kids who literally refuse to stand. Just 12 of 35 get up at all. That’s far too many to police, so now I just say the Pledge with the kids who stand and randomly remove phones, which keeps that violation in line.
Most teachers in our school agree; I’m not alone in arguing that if we can’t enforce minimum behavior for a school ritual, one that’s been going on for decades, then a) that’s a bad thing and b) we should stop the Pledge and “let the Commies win”, as a particularly right of center student of mine used to call it.
I used to be annoyed at the Pledge for “under God”–as an agnostic, I think the rebuke to non-believers is a deliberate slur that came out of the anti-Communist era and would still be happier if the phrase was dropped. But in today’s world, with an immigrant population that increasingly takes America for granted, the Pledge had become an enjoyable ritual until Kaepernick and the NFL ruined it all.
If schools are not allowed to insist that students simply stand or kneel respectfully during the Pledge, then it should be dumped. At this point, I hate the first five minutes of class, and have asked that the Pledge be dropped from announcements.
All that is prelude to this story about a Florida kid “getting arrested for refusing to say the Pledge”. Key details:
- This was a substitute teacher.
- The substitute teacher was a Cuban immigrant.
- The kid refused to leave the room without disruption.
- The kid was arrested for threats.
So the media headlines are, essentially, lying. The kid was not arrested for refusing to say the Pledge, unless the police want to speak to Jussie Smollett for buying a Subway sandwich.
The shocking part, to me, was the teacher’s comment to the kid, until I read well into the newspaper stories. As is usually the case when demographics conflict with the narrative, the media holds back or delays release of demographics. So it’s well into the story before you learn the sub, Ana Chavez, is an immigrant, while the kid in question is, I think, a non-immigrant African American.
We come, once again, to the clash of “Who/Whom?”. Normally, immigrants can say things that white Americans can’t, so Ana Chavez probably thought she was secure in her ability to criticize a snotty little kid who wouldn’t stand for the flag. Notice that she actually put her comment in the report!
But no one warned Ana of the dire fate that awaits the loser of a narrative clash. On the plus side, Ana Chavez is a common name, so she can leave town and sub somewhere else.
The administrator decision to remove the student from the classroom isn’t surprising. We have a nationwide sub shortage. If the sub had said “remove this kid because he’s wearing a blue shirt that’s hurting my eyes”, he probably would have removed the kid and took him to another room saying “Sorry, don’t worry, this is no big deal.” Maybe dump the sub, maybe not, depending on the scarcity, the sub, and the kid.
What I don’t understand, and can’t without more information, is why the school resource officer was called in. I can think of two possibilities off hand. First, the administrator came, the kid refused to go, and then the SRO showed up. Second, the administrator and the SRO came together, and I can only conceive of that occurring if the student was utterly out of control–or the substitute teacher made it sound that way.
Then I looked up the school and considered a third possibility: Lawton Chiles is a fairly rich, very high-achieving middle school (supposedly ranked 11th in the entire state) and is also 15% black, with most blacks scoring proficient on state tests. Perhaps they don’t have many discipline problems, so the dean and SRO are twiddling their thumbs waiting for each call. Unlikely, but I offer it up.
However, this part seems quite clear:
The student was asked more than 20 times to leave the classroom by the dean of students and the school resource officer intervened, asking the student to leave the classroom and the student refused, the police say.
Police say the student eventually left the classroom and created another disturbance, making threats while he was escorted to the office at the school.
They didn’t walk into the room and arrest him. They asked him to leave. More than twenty times. Many, many school officials read about the events at Spring Valley and learned their lesson well. They made no effort to physically force the boy from the room.
Eventually, the sixth-grader did leave, probably making threats. But it took a long time, and during that time, that student had directly disobeyed a police officer. Once he left, he apparently made more threats.
Do I think he should have been arrested? Absolutely not, on the evidence.
But my primary reason for writing this short piece is to remind people, once again, that the underlying issue becomes irrelevant once a cop shows up. Students–particularly black students, it seems–need to learn a fundamental truth: don’t treat a cop like a teacher. The minute the cop walks into the room, the facts on the ground shift unalterably.
I wish more of the media coverage would focus on this, which is of course a foolish dream. The media wants to convince everyone that schools are racist, that black children are deliberately put on a school-to-prison pipeline because of white teachers’ intolerance and bigotry.
Perhaps consider this: the Lawton Chiles Middle Academy case is a big step up from Spring Valley. The dean and the SRO acted with restraint in removing the recalcitrant student from the classroom. Perhaps they arrested the young boy because they can’t allow students to holler violent threats with impunity. Whatever their reason, reports make it clear they didn’t just charge in and lock the kid up.
Perhaps people should tell Dhakira Talbot, the boy’s mother, that while she might wish the school had handled things differently, her most pressing responsibility is to tell her son that no matter what he feels about the flag, or his unjust treatment, he must understand the facts on the ground once a cop shows up to talk to him. Obey the cop. No matter what. Things will get straightened out later.
They can tell her white parents tell their kids the same thing, if it helps.