Police in Schools

14-Year-Old's Tooth Had to Be Sewn Back into Mouth After School Cop Punched Him

Disturbing violence at Woodland Hills High

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Woodland
Screenshot via Woodland Hills High

A school resource officer at Woodland Hills High School allegedly punched a student in the face, knocking out one of his teeth. The student, 14-year-old Que'Chawn Wade, was taken to the hospital, where doctors sewed his tooth back into place.

That altercation, from 2015, wasn't captured on video. But the Pittsburgh-area school has produced video footage of other troubling incidents other the years, including one in which the same school resource officer, Steve Shaulis, grabs a student, places him in a chokehold, and slams him into the ground for seemingly no reason. Shaulis then tasers the student as principal Kevin Murray holds him down.

The student was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Wade was charged with resisting arrest, as well as aggravated assault and making terroristic threats. Federal authorities are investigating four incidents in total, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"They make you flinch when you see what they did to that young man," said Tim O'Brien, the attorney representing the fourth student. His client is a 15-year-old girl who alleges similar altercations and "fabricated" criminal charges in two incidents at the school in 2015 and late 2016.

The principal was investigated by the school district, cleared of wrongdoing, and reinstated. He was even made head football coach.

Officer Shaulis is still on duty, but no longer stationed in the school.

This is the trouble with assigning cops to patrol schools. Even if the kids were engaged in wrongdoing, there's simply no way that manhandling them, and then charging them with serious crimes, is the best strategy for improving their behavior. Can you imagine being charged with "making terroristic threats" as a 14-year-old? Life is going to be very, very difficult for Wade, moving forward.

The kids most likely to get in trouble at school have other problems: a bad family life, poverty, personal issues, etc. It's important to keep schools safe. But it's also important for schools to do their actual jobs—to educate and socialize troubled youngsters. Arresting every kid who talks back to an authority figure and packing him off to jail isn't an effective way of dealing with the problem. This strategy dramatically increases the likelihood of a troubled teenager becoming a hardened criminal, which is just one of the reasons Tyler Koteskey and I called for de-militarization of school discipline in the March 2017 issue of Reason.

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  1. The student was charged with resisting arrest

    Of course.

  2. Arresting every kid who talks back to an authority figure and packing him off to jail isn’t an effective way of dealing with the problem.

    Sure it is.

    1. No, it’s not. If you arrest every kid who talks back to an authority figure, you’d have to lock up just about every high school student out there. You may as well just combine jail and public school.

      Oh, wait…

      1. “Effective” doesn’t necessarily imply that it is wise or just.

  3. Can you imagine being charged with “making terroristic threats” as a 14-year-old?

    If you don’t want to be treated like a jihadi, don’t turn your back on a cop like a jihadi.

    1. I’m pretty sure you mean jihadian or jihadianeer but I’m not sure. Demonizyms were never my thing.

      1. I think the word is mujahid.

  4. 1:28, obviously his words were an act of violence. Cops are turning into snowflakes.

    1. 1:19, he departs through a closed door leaving it ajar. Irrefutable proof that he’s an animal and/or raised by wolves.

      /sarc, but seriously, close the damn door! And open file handles! And markup tags! And delimiters in equations!

      Actually, I need to stop thinking about it or I’ll convince myself that people weren’t getting popped in the mouth enough in school.

  5. This strategy dramatically increases the likelihood of a troubled teenager becoming a hardened criminal…

    But the important thing is that the school resource officer’s breeches become hardened through unchallenged displays of authority.

  6. The principal was investigated by the school district, cleared of wrongdoing, and reinstated. He was even made head football coach.

    Football coach as the principal. This explains so much. So much.

    Look, I don’t have anything against football, football players, or their coaches. And I know some quite bright and intelligent coaches. But a head football coach in this country means he’s primarily a jock and gets paid to be a jock, not just a science teacher that helps coach a team after hours.

    1. Many schools are better managed by a physically intimidating male presence. Bunch of testosterone laden teenage troublemakers are less likely to get in the face of a principal like that…particularly a coach that may be respected by some of the biggest boys in the school. Look around the country and it is very common to have either the principal or vice principal of a middle/high school be a physically imposing male….often a coach….or, to be blunt, a larger black woman. Teenage boys respond predictably to an imposing authority figure that doesn’t take crap from anyone….particularly one who their peers or parents hold some respect for.

  7. Schools don’t bring officers into the building unless their is a significant problem that can’t be controlled by the normal school personnel. What is a principal supposed to do when ‘kids’ simply ignore verbal directions? When being told to go to class, stop loitering in the bathroom, etc results in a principal or teacher being told to “fuck off”?

    Years ago, the schools across the country relied on the the male gym teacher or football coach for issues that escalated to physical confrontation. Now, with everyone looking for a legal payday…that doesn’t work.

    What was the movie about the real-life principal who carried around a baseball bat? At the time it was lauded as a great example. Would that work now?

    Now schools are opting to bring in LEOs, largely for liability mitigation so school employees don’t ‘get their hands dirty’. Their very purpose there is to provide the physical next step to disciplinary issues.

    What’s the alternative? Charter schools and let the good kids get the hell out and allow these schools to devolve to the cesspools the miscreants want them to be?

    1. What’s the alternative?

      No more public education. Stop forcing kids that don’t belong in school into a school. Stop preaching that that’s the only way to make anything of your life.

      1. I wasn’t preaching that. But since eliminating mandatory education prior to age 16 is most areas is not going to go away within our lifetimes, I saw no need to pretend that it could.

        1. That was the general ‘you’ implied, not the specific ‘you’.

          It is unfortunate, but that seems to be the only way to actually solve the problem. Short of giving teachers permission to beat children, that is.

        2. Any of the “alternatives” aren’t really alternatives at this time, because we’re not making any headway toward the public as seeing them as acceptable, or from mitigating the other issues with them.

          We could go back to having school employees administer punishments, up to and including corporal punishment, but as long as the issue of a multi-million dollar lawsuit looms, that’s not tenable for the schools. If we make the schools immune to suit, then you have the same problem we have with some LEO’s now–being abusive because they’re above the law.

    2. Schools don’t bring officers into the building unless their is a significant problem that can’t be controlled by the normal school personnel.

      I don’t think that’s really true at this point. Having a cop stationed in schools seems to be becoming pretty standard.

      What’s the alternative?

      What you said, or what Sparky said, or kick the miscreants out of school. They are unlikely to get anything out of it anyway.

      1. “Having a cop stationed in schools seems to be becoming pretty standard.”

        It’s standard in some areas, but far rarer in middle class burbs.

        1. It’s standard in some areas, but far rarer in middle class burbs.

          You wish. Here’s a list of the SRO’s in Douglas County CO (middle to upper middle class southern suburbs of Denver) . Most of these schools are at least middle class, and some are even upper class. Highlands Ranch is in a upper middle to upper class suburb, Valor Christian is a high priced private schools for fuck’s sake. Sky View Academy is a charter school. Even the STEM Schools Academy, which I’m pretty sure is another charter/ STEM magnate school (science and math nerds, IOW) has a fucking SRO.

          There’s no fucking way all these schools are such nightmarish hell-scapes full of unruly little juvenile delinquents that they need cops stationed there. The schools have just decided that they’d rather have the cops involved in what should be ordinary disciplinary matters. Then you get some Judge Dredd wannabe pig who decides to just go ahead and choke out and/or body slam some smart mouthed kid for failing to respect his AUTHORITAY, arrest the kid for one of their bullshit catch-all charges (like disorderly conduct). And now, a kid who was at worst a back talking idiot gets a criminal record and some braying fucktards see nothing wrong with that, apparently.

    3. And if they must have cops there, make sure they have techniques other than punches to the face to control shithead kids who need to be physically restrained. And punish the ones who get excessive. The cops are supposed to be the trained, professional adults. If some kid pisses off the cop, the cop’s job is to keep his cool. Even if it means taking a punch or two himself.

      1. I’ll grant that in some situations a police officer really should be getting involved. But even then, jail should not be where the kid is brought. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like expulsion is an available option so the best you could do is temporary suspensions.

        And maybe this is just a bit of kids-these-days-ism, but I don’t remember schools being so chaotic when I was younger.

        1. I don’t remember schools being so chaotic when I was younger.

          I highly doubt they really are much worse, except perhaps in some inner cities. But most suburban or rural area schools probably aren’t any worse. The schools just don’t want to deal with the potential liability that comes from actually disciplining kids, so they hand off that responsibility to someone with sovereign immunity – a cop. I think more blame for this state of affairs probably falls on overly litigious parents who think their “perfect little angel” can do wrong and sue the school if a teacher so much as looks at their precious cherub wrong. Because of them, schools feel like they have to outsource discipline issues to the cops, who won’t be fired if they rough up one of the little “punks.” The unintended consequence being that we end up with a lot of kids getting juvenile records who in the past wouldn’t have.

          1. I think more blame for this state of affairs probably falls on overly litigious parents who think their “perfect little angel” can do wrong and sue the school if a teacher so much as looks at their precious cherub wrong.

            I agree. And you know those parents also won’t make any attempt to discipline their kids.

    4. “Schools don’t bring officers into the building unless their is a significant problem that can’t be controlled by the normal school personnel.”

      You’re joking, right?

      I went to high school in the Seattle burbs in the 90s and the school had an officer on hand during all school hours. Same thing for junior high.

      1. I went to high school in the hood of Baton Rouge, La. I never saw a cop set foot on campus and there were plenty of fights and whatnot.

        1. To be fair, at both the schools I went to, I never once saw or heard of a cop laying a finger on (much less arresting) a student.

    5. Schools don’t bring officers into the building unless their is a significant problem that can’t be controlled by the normal school personnel.

      I’m no body language expert, but their posture when the kid waltzes in the door is distinctly more ‘collecting a paycheck’ than ‘responding to a situation’.

      And the movie was Hard Lessons, Denzel Washington played a movie version of the real life Joe Lewis Clark.

      1. Also, Lean On Me with Morgan Freeman.

  8. Cops are needed on campus now, primarily because it is generally not allowed to touch a student in any way, or one has to be certified in order to restrain students. The thing is bad things happen in schools. Especially once you move up into middle and high school. I’m a teacher myself, now walking with a cane because one of the students, a 17 year old football player attacked me, trying to get out of class before security arrived. Again, the situation can vary, but I found the officer on campus was more on the kid’s side than my own. He actively pressured me to not press charges, and I was out of work for a month recovering.

    That’s not to say that situations like the one in the article are ok, they aren’t. Administrators are often overzealous in dealing with kids, and school police can be as well. But that does not mean that having cops on campus isn’t necessary nowadays. Sadly it is.

    1. If the cops are really there to help the kids and take great care not to get physical unless absolutely necessary, maybe that’s not so bad. Having permanent police presence in schools leaves a bad taste in my mouth, though. Just makes schools even more like jail for kids.

      If police are needed in schools, they need to be held to very high standards when it comes to using physical force and be severely punished if they don’t adhere to the standards.

      It also bothers me that cops can get away with things that teachers and principals can’t. If force is necessary for safety, then anyone should be able to use force without being punished. And if force isn’t necessary or is questionable, it should be just as easy to sue or punish a cop as it is a vice principal doing the same thing.

      1. Also, and again this may vary, but in a school with around 3,000 kids, we have one LEO. He is almost never seen unless there is a serious problem, generally a drug bust, theft, weapon, or major fight on campus.

  9. According to the article, the purpose of the school is to “socialize troubled youngsters.” Socialize them to what? Et Tu, Reason.

    1. Socialize them to be around other people?

      1. And also to teach them how to fuck with authority figures and test the limits of what they can get away with.

  10. how are the little thugs supposed to learn to be big thugs without leo?

  11. Teachers will tell you that they’re not getting arrested for ‘talking back to an authority figure’.

    They’re getting arrested for harming other students, or staff, or teachers too much.

    That’s right, ‘too much’–they’ve done something that can’t be ignored. Most incidents just get swept under the rug, with maybe some ISS during the class the perpetrator was wreaking havoc in.

    There is stupid and awful crap that happens–but it all comes from the same source. Administrations that don’t do enough to nip problems in the bud who overreact when they can’t hide the problems anymore.

    And why don’t school administrations nip problems in the bud? Because doing so would get them accused of racism.

    1. And why don’t school administrations nip problems in the bud?

      This is if you look past the basal logistical problem of cramming 50 lbs. of learning into 20-30+ sacks ranging from 0-50 lbs. in capacity in 1 hr.

  12. Schools are there to socialize troubled students? Really?

    I am praying that if you have children a good deal of their time is spent socializing the trouble students at their schools.

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