I read a short report in today's Brattleboro Reformer about an "assaultive student" at the Austine School who was cited into court for simple assault and disorderly conduct. It's the second one in recent memory. A previous report sounded much more threatening, and was more detailed, but either way, there's something that doesn't sit well with me in reading about police being called for student discipline. As with so many other things, it's not the way it used to be when I was a kid.
The Brattleboro Retreat, although not recently, has also relied on the police to take authority over unruly or combative youth and there have been past incidents where those youthful patients were tasered into compliance.
Each of these institutions serve a special population of youth where some level of boundaries and behavioral expectations must be in place, and I am no eye witness to what happens, but it seems to me there's something amiss when so often I seem to read about the need for police.
I grew up next door to a woman who was deaf. It wasn't frequent, but she would at times become so frustrated in trying to communicate that once every so often there'd be an outburst, sometimes violent. Calling the police on her would have never been something her family, or her neighbors, would have considered. There was a level of understanding about her outbursts. Could someone have been hurt? Of course.. But the reactions from others made more sense, and I have to say, I wouldn't have seen a lick of good that could possibly have come out of having her hauled into court. Who knows how frequently she was not understood? I don't think her outbursts were so contained to one instance as much as I believe they were a culmination.. The straw that broke the camels back. And it wasn't a question of method.. She knew sign language, and those around her also knew, but there are times when signing doesn't serve as effectively as the spoken word.
And those with emotional and mental challenges? I can't help but think its even more of a balancing act, and short of delivering a chemical lobotomy to very patient (which I have been eye witness to) it seems to me that for those afflicted with the special misery of mental health crisis is in fact something that can be anticipated with a measured and planned response that would not bring taser-armed police into a private facility that charges a great deal of money to deliver "treatment"..
In the grade school I attended, there were many fights over the years. One every few weeks. Parents were called, kids were suspended and repeat offenders were expelled. But I never recall even once, the presence of police. One of my now grown children was tackled in a bus line and was brought to the hospital via ambulance with a possible neck injury. Again, no police. Again, it wasn't a thought that would have even crossed my mind.. The boy who committed the assault was suspended and for me, it seemed a proper punishment.
So, I am wondering what has changed and why? Have we become so intolerant to even special need populations, that its given zero consideration when dealing with disorderly conduct that might be one of the defining elements to that need?
It just seems to me that there's no place in a judicial system, who already claim a lions share of the population, for assisting institutions such as those who are bringing in youth with varied challenges and diff-abilities. Can't they come up with a better response than court citations, and are parents being forewarned that thoughtful considerations for behavioral issues aren't included in the price of admission?
Just doesn't sit we'll with me. But again, I only rely on what's been reported and the only eye witness accounts I have are from my own experiences long in the past. So, I must take a guess that these situations must have been much, much worse than I am imagining.