Saturday, March 20, 2010

What Got To Me Today Series: Student tasered at Ypsilanti High

So I'm reading an article on Friday about a 17 year old kid who was tasered at Ypsilanti High School because he was "unruly" while being escorted to the Principal's office. 


I had to go back and make sure I had read all the details and wasn't missing anything. 

Surely the deputy escorting him must have needed to taser in self-defense, right?  WRONG.  Nothing mentioned about that in two different news publications.

Surely the student was armed with a weapon, right?  WRONG.  No weapon mentioned.

Okay, then surely school administrators realize that tasering is only to be used as a last resort short of discharging a firearm, right?  WRONG, obviously.

Tasers, or stun guns, are weapons that look like pistols. Instead of discharging bullets, tasers send an electric charge.The electrical current then, disrupts electric signals sent from a subject's brain to his muscles, rendering him to a state of temporary paralysis.

The use of tasers by police (let alone high school deputies) has been a controversial one.  Tasers cause extreme pain and loss of balance. In some cases they cause vertigo, seizures, skin or muscle damage, cardio problems and death.

According the the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT), tasers have been added to the list of punishments deemed torturous based on the following definition of torture:

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1

I'm going to need to hear something a lot more threatening than "unruly" before I can get my head around tasering a 17 year old child.  Back before tasers were the norm in some schools, this kid would have taken his "unruliness" and stormed right out of the building.  The parents would've been called, and the student would face some kind of disciplinary action upon returning to school.

Hmmm...what kind of disciplinary action would be appropriate for a school administrator to implement?  Detention?  Suspension?  Expulsion?  An electric shock with enough current to disrupt all voluntary control of a 17 year old's muscles?

It must now be illegal for a teenager to rebel against authority.  Perhaps he should have been arrested for not going to the Principal's office.  Actually, I'd be able to understand the incident better if I knew this student had done something against the law.  Did he pull a knife?  Was he out of control on narcotics? Were there assault charges?  Absent of legal charges or a threat of weapons, I'm going to have to side against the deputy in this instance. 

These are our children.  And though it is true a seventeen year old child can be tried as an adult in a court of law, let me say again, no law appeared to be broken here.  This young man is someone's child and he was electrically shocked at school, a place we trust our kids will be taken care of.  I know many people will say "no harm done" or "thats what he gets" (as one facebook commenter on the story posted), or "well perhaps my good child is safer because the bad ones get tasered."


Tasers are weapons.  Is it really in our children's best interest for authorities to err on the side of violence?  Is it really in our child's best interest to set an example of weapon use?  To teach them the only way to resolve a dispute is by shocking the hell out of them?  As parents, do we really want "fear of tasering" to be motivation for good behavior? (I can probably source about a dozen psychology books that go up against this one!). I'll go on the record here that fear and anxiety of physical harm are not condusive to a postive learning environment.

Is this the kind of behavior we want from our authority figures,  as examples for our children?

This parent says no.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What Got To Me Today Series: Law & Order writers open eyes to Women of Congo

It is impossible to look at the above photo and not feel something for this woman, her child on her back, running for her life.  Not only does she run from an explosion, from war, but most certainly she is running in fear from the rebels themselves, who did the bombing.  She is running because she knows what they will do to her and her child when they catch her. This woman and millions like her are running everyday, today, right now.  Appallingly, most people don't  know about them because the violence facing these women is too horrific to even think about. But thanks to some excellent women writers of Law & Order SVU, millions of Americans got a glimpse last night.

Most people, at one time or another, have caught an episode or two of Law & Order or one of it's spin-offs, either Special Victims Unit or Criminal Intent.  If you are familiar with Law & Order, you know they often pull their story lines right from current headlines, whether it's a big Supreme Court decision or some sultry sex scandal. They always twist it up a bit, so we don't know the outcome, but surely we are familiar with the content.

Last night, the writers of Law & Order SVU did something extraordinary.  Writers Christina M. Torres and Dawn DeNoon took an episode entitled "Witness", and used it to open mainstream eyes to the ongoing, mind blowing atrocities facing the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  I'm sure there are some viewers who know about the conflict going on in Congo, but I bet millions do not.  I am giving some serious kudos to Ms. Torres and  Ms. DeNoon for bringing such important subject matter to mainstream America.

Conflict in Congo between  Rwandan-Congolese joint military operations and Rwandan Hutu Rebels is ongoing.  Women and children are used as objects of war, subject to torture, mutilation and sexual violence. Often these acts are commited in front of the women's husbands and family. Once attacked, a woman is considered to bring shame on her family and she is outcast.  Some women die, some run to the jungle and try and find camps for survival.  Camps are often also raided by rebels, unable to give protection to the women and they are attacked all over again.

I feel very strongly about these women, and the attempts to bring awareness to them and their plight. Thank you to the writers for bringing this headline back into the limelight.  There are many organizations trying to help these women.  Three of my top favorites are, and  Please visit these websites to learn more about these women, our sisters.  See photos and read more about what goes on in their lives and how you can help them.  With the current economy, financial support is difficult, however there is one bigger thing we can do to help and that is to raise awareness.  Ms. Torres and Ms. DeNoon did just that, and you can too. Thank you.