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Mar. 7 2010 - 3:14 am | 345 views | 1 recommendation | 7 comments

NYC tops Florida with arrest of five-year-old kindergarten student

NEW YORK - JULY 23:  Copies of the New York Ti...

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In a previous post, I railed against a sheriff’s deputy in Port St. Lucie, Florida, for cuffing a 6-year-old girl who was having a “temper tantrum,” and carting her off to “a mental facility.”

Now I’ll confess that I took a certain smug satisfaction in pointing a finger at Florida, while pecking away at my computer in New York City, where we’re far more civilized.

So much for smug satisfaction. New York City school safety officers have apparently topped Port St. Lucie by cuffing a 5-year-old boy. Congratulations, New York!

“In January 2008,” Op-Ed colunist Bob Herbert writes in The New York Times, “a 5-year-old kindergarten pupil became unruly at a public school in Queens. A public safety officer, seeing her duty, pounced. She handcuffed the boy who was then shipped off to a hospital psychiatric ward. A 5-year-old!” (Emphasis is Herbert’s.)

That’s just one of the inexplicable arrests Herbert notes in his column. Two sixth-graders in the Bronx were arrested and taken to the local precinct by an armed police officer after each drawing a line on the other’s desk with magic markers. Erasable magic markers, no less. The students were sent to get tissues to erase the lines when school safety officers seized them. Herbert does not relate what must have been the riveting scene in which the sixth-graders were disarmed of their magic markers.

In another episode, a 12-year-old was arrested for doodling on her desk with an erasable marker. Students are already prohibited from bringing cell phones to school; let’s ban these damn erasable markers. Am I to expect that my tax dollars will be wasted on tissue to clean up magic marker doodles? Lock those kids up!

These incidents have come to light in lawsuits brought by students’ families. How many other incidents have gone unreported because the families chose not to sue or didn’t have the means to sue? Considering the expense and effort required to file a lawsuit, would it be too big a leap to surmise that this situation is far worse for poor kids in New York than for kids whose parents can afford to bring such a suit?

Port St. Lucie’s policy of apparently waiting until its students are six before cuffing them looks enlightened compared to New York’s five-year-old arrest.

What is the phrase I’m looking for here…

Common sense?


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  1. collapse expand

    Could it be that things are working so well in the class room that peace officers are bored?

    Nah. :-)

  2. collapse expand

    Despite the general distrust of government, Americans seem to have adopted an unhealthy tolerance for heavy handed authority. I don’t know if it is a natural outcome of a twisted obsession with all things military; or if it is the steady drip drip of fear mongering in the media. I suspect both may play a role.

  3. collapse expand

    Boredom is as good a guess as anything to explain this behavior, Jake. And Scott, you make an interesting point about Americans’ conflicting attitudes toward government and authority. Maybe we could understand that a frightened safety officer in a high school might overreact, fearful that a student might be carrying weapons. But five-year-olds?

  4. collapse expand

    Your post strikes me as describing a fearlessness, a certainty that no price will be paid as long as the cry of “safety!” can be evoked. Perhaps it’s because so few law enforcement officers in NYC have actually had to pay for their crimes? But everyone seems to be pushing the boundaries, all sorts of boundaries. I don’t know why really, though most people blame September 11, 2001, for it (and just about everything else). This reliance on authoritarianism, this willingness to give up one’s rights, this tolerance of brutality are just another form of the same trend (imo): not rule by law, but instead rule by mob.

    Whatever the reason, this planet is getting more and more like John Calhoun’s experiments during the 1950s … and I find it very difficult to bear the thought that this is the legacy we leave our children.

  5. collapse expand

    You should remember that first the parents with the help of authorities created the unruly untouchable classs of kids. These kids cannot be disciplined by normal old ways by parents under the threat of authorities suing them, cannot be disciplined by the authoroties under the threat of parents’ suing them, so let them both meet the chicken coming home to roost.

  6. collapse expand

    All hail the State!

    Conform! Conform, or be crushed!

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    About Me

    Paul Raeburn is a journalist, author and blogger whose stories have appeared recently in The Huffington Post, The New York Times Magazine, Scientific American, and Psychology Today, among others.

    He is the author, most recently, of Acquainted with the Night, a memoir of raising children with depression and bipolar disorder. His next book is Why Fathers Matter, to be published in 2010 by Simon & Schuster. Raeburn is a former science editor at Business Week and The Associated Press.

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