Lack of discipline

From an editorial Thursday in the Los Angeles Times:

A police officer’s job is to protect public safety, not to enforce school discipline. That’s true even in states like South Carolina that, incredibly, elevate classroom disruptions into crimes for which students can be arrested, as was the case with the Columbia, S.C., girl shown in a video Monday being tackled in her chair by a sheriff’s deputy and thrown to the floor.

Her criminal offense? She wouldn’t put away her phone when the teacher told her to.

Teachers have tough jobs and sometimes must deal with teenagers who are defiant and disobedient. They deserve some backup – from principals and school administrators.

But crime and discipline are separate issues that call for different responses. Schools must discipline themselves as well as their students, and that means not encouraging or even allowing teachers who can’t handle unruly but non-dangerous students to react by calling the police.

The South Carolina incident is reigniting a debate about the unequal treatment of students because of their race, and rightly so.

But it points to an even deeper problem: an irrational instinct on the part of the public to criminalize behavior that is undesired or unpleasant but perfectly normal.