Schools are not prisons.
Yet whenever a threat emerges on campus -- either from outside or inside -- school officials begin speaking in prison terminology.
They put the school on -- listen for it -- "lockdown."
Why? Schools are not prisons.
Yet in Hamilton County, corporal punishment is still an acceptable and permissible form of discipline.
Each fall, parents are asked to sign a Code of Acceptable Behavior and Discipline, which informs them that school officials may discipline their child physically.
They may paddle them.
Plus, the school does not have to notify parents if their child is paddled; only when parents request it is an explanation given, according to the code.
Why do we still allow corporal punishment? Schools are not prisons.
Yet when encountering two students fighting each other last week at LaFayette High, the school's resource officer responded with actions more appropriate for criminals or inmates.
He drew his Taser and fired.
"I couldn't have asked him to do anything different," the LaFayette police chief said.
Is this what it has come to? When an armed, trained police officer uses his Taser on two high school teenage girls -- and is applauded for it -- then we have reached a point of societal confusion where we no longer distinguish between prison and schoolyard.
Introducing such Taser-esque discipline (man, it almost makes you nostalgic for the paddle) into schools sends such an insulting psychological message to students, who see officers treat them in the same way they would felons. Students see the sanctity of their school grounds violated by a mindset better suited for incarceration.
There is no creative, less violent way to deal with two teenage girls who are fighting? This is the best form of discipline available to the LaFayette school and police officials?
It's like Tasers are a gateway discipline; is tear gas now also appropriate?
(Plus, a 2012 study showed that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest and death, according to The New York Times.)
The students who were fighting? They're being charged as criminals and face misdemeanor charges for fighting in a public place and could spend a year in jail and face a fine of up to $1,000.
Why? Schools are not prisons. Students are not prisoners. School resource officers are not jail guards.
There is, however, one hero in the story: the student who took the cellphone video that was then posted to YouTube, which made the story public.
Whoever you are, bravo. Well done. Really, really well done.
Of course, you, too, are being criminalized. School officials are on a witch hunt for you, wanting to punish you for violating school use policy for technology.
Yet you used technology in just the way it should be used.
You acted democratically, using technology to expose wrongdoing, to bring to light something troubling and questionable.
Punished? You ought to be applauded.
After all, schools are not prisons.
Contact David Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.
David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...
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