Viewpoint

S.C. classroom arrest highlights growing concern

How does one discipline a student who refuses to recognize authority and disrupts others in a classroom who are trying to learn? Well, certainly not by physically assaulting them and throwing them across the room. So then what? Call in the FBI?

A South Carolina female student who figuratively thumbed her nose at her teacher and school administrators who asked her to put down her telephone and leave math class seems a perfect example of a major ailment of the public educational system – lack of choices that ultimately lead to the use of untrained personnel.

The frustrated officials turned to a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the high school and bad turned very quickly to horrible, eventually resulting in the firing of the deputy and quite possibly a large financial outlay by the school district and a potential injury to the pupil who provoked it.

Add the fact that the student was black and the deputy white, and once again allegations of racial motivation are raised during a heightened period of such tensions. Whether race had anything to do with it seems purely speculative given the fact the school majority is black and the deputy, who also is a football coach, reportedly has an African-American girlfriend.

There used to be an easy answer to the vexing problem of discipline beyond suspending unruly students, an unsatisfactory solution that seems to be epidemic. It was called corporal punishment, and it gave the teacher a means of instructing pupils at an early age the meaning of discipline and authority whether it was a swat with a paddle, a ruler across the hands or detention. But this too was subject to abuse and considered primitive in a modern society.

Success in finding a solution depends on the help of parents, sadly too often missing. The proper deportment at home goes a long way to dictating a student’s behavior in school.

It seems ridiculous, however, that the FBI and its Justice Department supervisors have entered this case, giving it far more importance than it should have, especially since school district officials and the sheriff’s office moved quickly. The federal authorities seem politically motivated by student videos and national television’s “if it bleeds, it leads” journalistic practices. In reality it was an example of a young lady’s abominable behavior and a deputy’s worse judgment.

Email Dan Thomasson at danthomasson@verizon.net.

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