A Student at a Desk

You’ve seen the video, I’m sure. The one showing a school resource officer dumping a young woman backward out of her desk and then tossing her across the room?

I’ve watched it dozens of times, each time shifting my focus to the different players—the officer, the girl, the other students, the teacher. I’ve watched an interview with the young man who shot the video. I’ve tried, more than once, to give the officer the benefit of the doubt. Surely there’s a backstory here. Surely she made some sort of threatening gesture we can’t see. Surely something terrible happened moments before the recording began that required or justified the officer’s actions.

I just can’t make sense of it.

Other people seem to understand it: This is what happens when you don’t respect authority, they say. She should’ve done what she was told, they say. She forced him to act this way, they say.

I don’t buy it, and I worry about what the other students learned yesterday:

  • If a conflict can’t be resolved through conversation, the next step is physical aggression.
  • The consequence for questioning out-of-control authority is arrest.
  • It’s appropriate for men to toss women around if they’re noncompliant.

Yes, of course I think students ought to respect one another, teachers, and administrators; I recognize there are students who are mouthy and obstinate; and I understand (to the extent I’m able) the multiple roles our educators take on: teacher, counselor, mentor, provider.

Yes, of course I think law enforcement should be trusted and respected (under most circumstances in which I would encounter them); I recognize there are people who believe otherwise (for all sorts of reasons, some justifiable and some perhaps not); and I understand (to the extent I’m able) how incredibly difficult, dangerous, and demanding law enforcement can be.

Yes, of course I know we don’t know why or how the situation escalated to the point it did; I recognize the media seems to have an anti-police bias; I understand this is surely a more complex situation than it appears.

And still, no, I do not believe this young woman “deserved what she got,” and I can’t imagine the outrage and fear such a response must stir up among the young women and men in that classroom and community.

What the hell is happening?

And what are we going to do about it?