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Saturday, April 23, 2005


Jonathan David Jackson

Most importantly, it seems that K-12 teachers are less likely to actually listen to young black inner city (and rural) students because that have already pathologized them as incorrigibly misbehaved.

Often when a child radically resists direction it's because she or he 1) fulfills the quiet expectation of rebellion that everyone already seems to have for them; 2) or she or he is NOT being listened to, or dialogued with: just told what to do.

Now, be ous voices "sweet" and nice-nasty like many white parents and educators ("now put the glass down junior") or snap-vernacular-biting and signifiying like some black parents and educators, it's still TELLING a child what to do.

Socrates all but invented a form of education called padeia built on dialogical interaction--intensive questioning and answering. In the METAPHYSICS, Aristotle said that WONDER is the entrance way to philosophy. We are better off opening up avenues to wonder in children and young adults.

Patience, however challenging, is important too.

But Benjamin it is also about the media's love to see black pathology and how operative racism is in almost every part of American life.

Even with the college students I teach (who have the gall to call themselves "kids" when they are in fact young adults) I find that if I dialogue with them and ask them WHY they do what they do that sometimes I get them to understand different approaches.

Ben G.

Thanks for your comment, Jonathan. Looking around the blogosphere, there is precious little effort being made by much of anyone (aside from Marian)to understand what was wrong with treating a five year old girl this way. Either the outrage is generic (at least it's outrage), or it's about what was wrong with the girl or the school's/teacher's/principal's inability to "properly discipline" an unruly child (that's when they're trying to be nice and not letting their racism show too much).

Of course, I already knew I'd get such a response from you were you to comment, but still it is always good when Jonathan weighs in...

Hopefully some of the progressive bloggers whom I admire will take this one up. So far not that I've seen...


What about the parental responsibility here? This is not the first time this child has had a violent outburst. The parent holds no accountability? I don't care what the color of her skin at some point this child has learned this behavior is acceptable and will be tolerated. So you think it would have been different if the principal had asked for them to send black officers to arrest her? She was supposed to specifically request an officer based on skin color? Absolutely insane. If I were a parent with a child in her class I would sue the school too. For not removing the child after her first episode. The time spent focusing on this one child took away valuable learning time from the other students in the class. The child needs solid parenting at home. If the mom can't guide her child in acceptable behavior at 5 what is to come in 5,7,9 years? The society has not failed this child or damaged her, her own mother has done a fine job by all on her own. And now she is trying to be rewarded for her failure to parent her child with a hefty lawsuit? Give me a break. And they kept the video rolling to protect themselves from speculation. If they hadn't goodness knows what kind of trumped up charges would also be filed. They needed to video-tape the extreme nature of her outburst so that others couldn't cry it was unnecessary. If they hadn't you would be speculating that they turned it off so they could further abuse and humiliate her.

Ben G.


What inside information do you have about how this "outburst" occurred or about what may have happened previously? What information do you have that I don't about the nature of girl's parenting? There are many things that might cause a five year old to act out that do not involve moral judgments of her or her family.

If the video was so important for protecting the teachers from speculation, why don't they air the part that shows the beginning of the conflict? It seems to me that the excerpts that are available do nothing but invite speculation. Why not show video excerpts from the first part of the class, before anything happened, so we can be assured that the teacher's conduct towards her students is nothing but respectful and responsive?

I don't believe you or I have enough information to know what caused the girl's behavior. You are very quick to blame the girl who is five and the parents about whom you know nothing. Why is that?

While your first inclination is to ask what is wrong with the child and her parents, mine is to ask what is wrong with the teacher and the school. However, I must admit there is not enough information to make conclusive judgments in either direction.

What I do know is nothing about the girl's behavior as shown on the video excerpts can convince me that a) the police were a necessary presence and b) there was any justification for the police to bind the girl's hands and feet.

The skin color of the people involved matters because we live in a society where Black children have unequal access to education and unequal treatment in schools and where police brutality and racial profiling is an unrelenting fact of life for Black Americans.




Police shown on tape handcuffing misbehaving 5-year-old
an ABC Action News report 04/22/05 - updated 6:49 p.m.

[Text of article deleted. Follow the link if you want to read a news article slanted in favor of the actions of the teachers and police. Original comments, rather than cut and pasted articles, will generally be left intact and unedited. --BG]


I was part of an online discussion of this case that emerged before the video was made public. There were many parents who asserted what Amie did, that the problem in this case was the parent who was not teaching her child good behavior. No one who took that position had the imagination to think of how terrifying it would be to be a five year old child (and to her mother!) to be taken away from school in handcuffs by police. (Of course they didn't use handcuffs, but only because her hands were too small.) They were all thinking about how it would affect the other children in the classroom. Others in the discussion imagined the pain of the child and of the mother, but we also took for granted that the child was having a pathological tantrum. We deplored the lack of skill and the punitive discipline we imagined the school officials to have exercised, based on the initial reports.

That was before any racial bias could enter into the audience's mind, as the original reporting on this appalling case didn't mention race. Now the school releases the child's name and video as if to say, "But don't you understand, she's a very SCARY kindergartener, she's black don't you know." They even released her name! She's a minor child! She's five years old! I hope some organization will step forward to assist the mother in suing the school system for damages.


I am just hearing about this today. I have a 3 month old son, God bless him. But if he were to EVER have a tantrum like this, his butt would be tanned by my hand. That is the problem with todays kids. They don't know of repercussions of bad behavior. They get put in the "naughty corner" instead of getting a good old fashion spanking. I got spankings when I was little and I love my parents dearly for this as now I know what has made me a good person, in turn who will make another good person as my son gets older. If I would have done this when I was little, you bet ya my butt would have been whipped. It seems that the mother should be total blame here for not teaching her child what behaviors are acceptable....nuff said.


I had the same thing happen to by child and I told the school to call me if mine was misbehaving since he was labeled ODD. I do believe in discipline, but they in their infinite wisdom called the liaison officer who controlled my child with handcuffs and my child suffered a busted nose before they called me. This kind of took the authority away from me. He wasn't throwing a tantrum prior but was disrepectful to a coach and not following directions. I would have definitely punished him but that authority was taken away from me the parent by the school system.


I dont think that child being arrested had anything to do w/ her race. But, w/ the way she was acting. I've read several things about this, and this isnt the first time that she's caused trouble at school. I believe that it took so many cops, to prevent the girl from hurting herself or them. One teacher/ principle couldnt stop her, why should be believe that one cop could have successfully. Also to prevent them from causing injury to her, then we be talking about another issue all together. I feel the only reason she calmed down was because she knew the police was coming. I dont however blame that child for th eway she acted, I blame the parent. I've also read that the mother fired their lawyer, he received a letter over the weekend saying his services were no longer required; the mother signed an agreement with a tabloid TV show and would only be dealing with them. To me that just says child what you did was bad, but what they did was much worse. Which to kids mean I didnt do anything wrong and I'm not in trouble for waht I did. The mother is trying to make a profit from her child misbehaving at school. What kind of message is that sending! I tell my kids all the time, dont have your school calling me cause you acting a fool. Cause believe me they'll wish the police got them before I did. Thats what I was told as a kid, and that scared the *@#$ out of me. I dont believe kids fear their parents anymore. I'm grown and I still fear my parents. I value their image of me. Which I think everyone should. The world lacks respect for other people. No way my kids would ever lay a hand on any adult, not just at school, but anywhere. But honestly speaking, if that was one of my children, I wouldnt be mad if the police was called and they were handcuffed. That teaches them a lesson. I bet she'll think before she acts like that again. And, not because of the punishment from mother, but because of the fear of being taken away from mommy!


Ben G. do you hinestly think the teacher would have done something wrong while vedio tapping herself. Give me a break. To you and Ruth, the lawyer released the tape to the public not the school or the police. "The Largo attorney released the tape to the media on Friday, drawing international attention, and said he planned to sue police and possibly the school on the family's behalf." - ABC Action News. So please lets not go there.


Thank you for the insight, Tyshunda. I concur with everything you had to say. I was watching "A Current Affair" tonight and thought to Google the girl's name online to try and find more detail about this issue. I watched all the video and read the news stories. And while I'm not one to side with popular opinion, I was still oddly curious enough to read into the blogs to get a rough idea of what people are saying about this. I must say that the only thing I found more appalling than the young girl’s behavior is the assertion that the treatment was because of the girl’s race! Are you kidding? That girl’s behavior would’ve been no more or less wrong if she were white. Furthermore, I don’t think the treatment of that girl would’ve been any different if she were white. Sure, I can see a gray area here… I can see Paula’s point of view where something was taken away from the parent when the police didn’t appear to reasonably honor the parent’s first right of refusal for discipline. Then again, put the “here we go again” scenario into context and figure it out, reasonable people: the mother has essentially been unsuccessful in her attempts to model the behavior of her child (assuming in the first place that she has even made any attempt to identify and/or correct her child’s unacceptable behavior). What circumstances would ever exist to justify the extent of this girl’s bad behavior? None that I can think of. And was the little girl traumatized by being handcuffed? I won’t doubt that… but wake up and smell the Ovaltine there, Ja’eisha: if you don’t listen to and respect authority, there’s a price to pay. Better to learn this sooner than later lest the consequences become even more severe. Ja’eisha got of easy. Maybe too easy.


Okay, granted the police may have gone to far with handcuffing this child. But as an African American parent I'm appalled by this childs behavior. No one seems to be concerned about this child action that led to this whole mess. There may be blame to go around to the school official and the officers. But that mom need to look at her daughter behavior. And one has to wonder what if any discipline goes on at home. I'm sure this child know right from wrong how can she think that her behavior was acceptable or even okay on any level. I'm frustrated because we in the black community need to be careful about crying racism when we first should look at the behavior. This was not a child who was innocently sitting by while adults yelled at her. she was in the wrong!!!! And that needs to be address first!!


Dad is a retired elementary principal (1975-1991). He saw kids with behavioral problems, health problems, all kinds of problems. The ones he had the most trouble with were the ones whose parents probably needed some parenting classes. When he had to enforce discipline, he always had to be ready for parents yelling at him for either doing too much or too little.

Teachers have one of the hardest jobs in the world. It may be harder now than it's ever been. But there's got to be a better way for Ja'eisha than this.


This is an example of a bad parent and a greedy lawyer. The school called the mother at 2:00 and told her what was going on, and the mother said she couldn't get there until 3:15. Why?? I am a single, working mother, but if I got a call from my son's school I would be there asap no matter what. The lawyer who released the tape was just trying to sensationalize the whole thing to line his pockets. Didn't anyone hone in on the officers comment.."I told you mother I would put the handcuffs on you". That tells me this has happened before. With children you cannot make comments and not follow through or they will have no respect for authority. Now is the time to stop this behavior instead of when she if 15 and maybe walks into school with a gun, and just starts shooting. It isn't about black and white, it is about right and wrong.


Admittedly, the site of a 5-year-old being handcuffed is horrendous. As an educator watching those videos, however, I got a sick feeling at my core to think of myself in that situation. The teachers/administrators were helpless.

I agree that handcuffing was completely inappropriate. I have no opinion on what could've been done differently. I'd like to hear the ideas of those who are so shocked and appalled that this happened as to what they should've done.

Blackwell Raines

The incident is St Petersburg, Florida is worthy of us reflecting deeply upon ourselves and the society as a whole. This blog allows a dialogue of the civilization to be effected, which is most often sorely missing. This topic of which I speak is the handicuffing by police of a 5-year-old kindergartener.

The handcuffing by strangers, regardless of a 5-year-old's behavior is a horrific, act of terror. In fact, if done by family members themselves, in a punitive manner, it would be such--even judged deeply disturbed. Why? Well, if every such young child was dealt with in a similar way, when behavior was described as inapprorpiate, imagine the lifetime of emotional scarring. And this is the reason behind middle class children never having to face such treatment--middle class white children, that is. But minority children seem to draw a particular harsh set of responses from those in charge--one of contempt, one of brutish reaction, and brooding resentment.

Historically, there is nothing new to to such traumatizing and coercive display of force, even against the very young, St Petersburg or anywhere in the state. Florida's past is littered with attacks on minority children, black children in particular. In the days of legal segregation, black children as young as 6-years-old could end up in "convict-lease" system, a conscripted prisoner system, in which work on private projects, such as road construction, was mandatory, six days a week. (PBS.org) Only black children, and latino children, and the occasional poor white kid, were effected. Such a thing was unthinkable to have happen to the middle class white child.

Individuals may not know their history, the state may elect to exclude such historical facts from hand-picked history books, but institutions, such as police forces, and schools, carry on business as usual, acting smugly and justifiably to criminalize whenever and wherever they deign to do so.

No unbiased, rational thought can justify criminalizing a 5-year-old in the name of orderliness. Equally, no society can support the brutalization of its youngest, and expect healthy adults. More, no society can call itself decent and democratic, and yet find ways to crush those of color.

Remember, one police officer, confidently stated that he had given the child's mother an earlier warning--next time, handcuffs. To make doubly good on that warning, the little girls's hands and feet were cuffed. Now, imagine a little blond white girls in those cuffs.

Ben G.

Blackwell Raines,

Thanks for your needed antidote to the many other comments that seek to blame the little girl and her mother for this act of police brutality. I thought your comments deserved more attention than they might get in my comments section, so I posted them as a new post on HungryBlues.

If you look around at the other things I've posted on this story, you will see (as you may already know) that in addition to the important historical context which you raise, there is ample evidence of broad scale, institutionalized racism at play in the present: a statewide epidemic of arrests of children under 12, with grossly disproportionate numbers of African American children affected; a class action suit against Pinellas County schools on behalf of ALL African American children in the county for an achievement gap between Black and white children that violates equal protection; other heinous examples of African American children being targeted by teachers, administrators, and fellow students for harassment and abuse.

This is a profound human rights crisis. I wish a major human rights organization would address it. On Monday, I think I will call Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.


I fell that we as African American's, all to often use being black as a excuss, to explain how we were done wrong in some type of way. Bottom line is that child acted a fool in school. On more than one occassion. I feel enough of anything is enough. Some of you say that it was an act of police brutality. What brutality, thay restrained her, and sat her down until her mother got there. They didnt push her around or ruff her up. So how was that brutality? As to why the mother didnt leave her job and go straight to the school. Unless you have children, and cant make it without the job you have. Dont ever ask that question. She cant just leave work, and lose her only source of imcome, because the school called. And yes you can lose your job for trying to take care of issues w/ your child (speaking from experiance). And she wasnt criminalizied, they didnt take her to jail, or put her in a detention facility. Wake up people, we need to get over this is being done to me because in black. No, its being done because you did something you had no business doing. I dont care if she was 5, 15, 25, or 55, she acted out in a way thats not appropriate for anywhere. not just school. We are not above the low of being punnished beacuse we are black. What that child did was wrong. Were looking at just her, what about the other students, what about the staff at that school. Are they to take a chance and let her have another outburst, and harm herself or other students and staff? I dont think so, school is suppose to be a place of order, they lead by example. They have to let that child and other children in that school know that, that type of behavior will not be accepted there. If not we have everybody acting out. I think we're trying to make something out of nothing, by using the race card. If it had happened to a white child, what would any of you, who feel this is so because of her race, have to say then. Would you be saying its wrong to treat a 5 yr old that way. And if so, just come out and say that. Leave the dramatics out, by saying its race related.

Blackwell Raines

Continuing in the dialog of the civilization--the 5-year-old, Ja'eisha Scott, is a child to all of society. Our outrage should not solely exist because she is African American, but because she is first, a human being, and secondly, one who is to become a nurturer, a mother, of a yet-unborn new generation.

And there is also another reason: the great charters--Constitution, Bill of Rights--of U.S. democracy can't just be real and consequential for some, and mere half-remembered school history for others. A basic premise in all the talk of government is the dignity of personhood. And yes, this principle extends to the very young, especially to a 5-year old, who cannot speak for themselves, or process through the events of an heavily-handcuffed arrest by three uniformed adults.

This doctrine comes with the expectation that every citizen is to be treated and accorded the equality of respect that comes with being a human being and citizen. It regards each person as an equal unit of importance because that person exist, not because given members of an institution chooses to disqualify certain persons based upon ethnic and socioeconomic grounds.

In the world of police science, an arrest occurs with the handcuffing of an individual--double cuffing, hands and feet, indicate something even more sinister. This, by the standards of those doing the criminalizing, is criminalizing. It is yet another reason for it to be unthinkable to befall the middle class white female child--the child is simply considered too valued.

A state away, over the weekend, a middle class white female was reported to have petpetuated a hoax: runaway bride: "bride-to-be gets cold feet," decides to disappear. Kidnapping was suspected, and later with the surfacing of the would-be bride, an alleged fabricated story was told to authorities. The search for the missing bride had involved 100 people on various government levels. Yet, upon learning of the fabrication, and seeing the bride-to-be arrive safely back in her hometown, there has been little criticism. In a carefully crafted statement, the police, called the experience most stressing--that is, for the bride-to-be. No charges have been filed the 32-year-old.

Institutions have long memories, and carry out their own aims and goals. The 5-year-old, acting up in kindergarten, is quickly claimed as disposable. The 32-year-old is deemed valued, and even criticism of her actions is muted, despite learning her disappearance a hoax. Accordingly, we're told the 32-year-old needs to have private time with her family, given the stress of it all. (Part of her disappearance was to Vegas.)

Two headline-grabbing examples, with the dignity of personhood being honored in one case, and summarily dismissed in the other, despite one being a very young child. But both are female.

In both instances, the institutions made judgment calls--they expressed harsh, severe reaction based upon the perceived social value of one person, while with the other, expressions of leniency, sympathetic support and even empathy, applying a different social value.

Interesting to note, there exist another disparity between the stories, on a different level: the 32-year-old received no heavy negative commentary of having been spoiled, of being overly privileged, or simply, of being too selfish, although much had been spent and scheduled for her Saturday wedding, and equally, much expense given in searching for her.

Last year, Tony Snow, then the host of "Fox Sunday News," provided a commentary, in which he said, "Racism is dead." He cited a couple of viewers, writing into the program, who had expressed agreement. What other support of this contention? None. It was anecdotal. No statistical scientific support. Here, I believe, is a prime example of the media, having one of its goals aired--simply wishing racism to go away for the sake of ratings and ease of reporting. To report on race and racism are complex underakings. Or, as the Today Show's Katey Couric asked one civil rights thinker, "Why do we have to re-open old wounds." Her question really begged another question, What is the state of race and racism in America?

The media is a firm member of society's set of institutions which are among the first to hear the cries and protests against violations of the dignity of personhood.

Criticisms leveled against the mother of the 5-year-old are also anecdotal, and worst. They are too ready, too often, to cavalierly dismiss the brutalization of a 5-year-old as of no real consequence, a necessary function of order. They provide the strawperson argument that protests against criminalization and brutalization of minorites by institutions is, in reality, no more than an attempt to manufacture cover for wrongdoing. Even an excuse for malcontents.

It should be note that brutalization and criminalization is rarely defined by the administering of physical blows. This is why adults can win litigation efforts after citing "mental anguish" and "emotional abuse."

At Harvard University's institute for housing, there is for the reading public, results of a 5-year multidisciplinary study on housing stock trends. One of the findings of the study was this--there is "systemic discrimination" surrounding "jobs, housing and education" in the nation. In such a report, there is no place for the anecdotal.

Behind this systemic form of discrimination is institutional racism; in fact, without this scope, systemic discrimination could not exist. These ominous housing patterns, if we trust the study, really point to a trend boding the re-segregation of America.

Institutions, having extremely long memories, never have doubted the achievement of the goal--return to the old status quo: a social value system based soley upon race, with only contempt for the dignity of personhood.

It is into this mix of tragedy that fell a 5-year-old girl.


This is wrong. She was 5 years old. She is a human not a wild animal. Let's be real. 3 policemen & 2 other adults need to handcuff a 5 year old girl? NO. Get it right.

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