Mia for Senate

Slammed

mia-leadership

As the news of what happened on Monday at Spring Valley High School continued to unfold, I found myself wondering who this teenaged girl is and why this small chapter of her journey erupted so violently, thrusting Columbia, South Carolina onto the world’s stage for the third time in three months.

Ironically, her alleged misbehavior isn’t even captured on tape, but seems to have garnered the most criticism, hatred and disdain. Why is that?  She’s a teenager.  If she were behaving badly, I’m not condoning that, but it’s certainly not uncommon for kids her age.  Anybody who has teenagers knows that disrespect, defiance, disruption and rebellion are typical, albeit temporary traits during those years.  It doesn’t make them criminals.  If so, a lot more of us would have records.

But this teenaged girl is being demonized, ostracized and sadly, criminalized before we even know or care about who she is or the details of her journey.  As a mother of two Richland Two students, watching folks malign this (or any) child before we even know or assess all of the facts is just as despicable as the videotape.

Maybe life has dealt her some pretty hard blows from which she has yet to recover. Perhaps she has nobody to advocate for her. It’s possible that she has already been brutalized, victimized or traumatized by those who were supposed to protect her.  Could she have a learning disability or “special needs” that would warrant additional consideration?

Do we know?  Do we care?  Doesn’t it matter?

What’s the school or district policy concerning student disciplinary issues and infractions?  Surely, it’s not to enlist the help of a School Resource Officer (SRO) for verbal, non-violent offenses or to violently remove a student from the classroom, unless he or she poses a threat to classmates or others.

And while this video doesn’t begin to capture a disruptive, defiant student, it does capture an unarmed, seemingly quiet one, as “Officer Slam” brutally takes her down like a hard-core criminal in the presence of her peers, while her teacher and administrator patiently watch.

Why was Law Enforcement even asked to intervene—let alone allowed to arrest and criminalize this 16-year old girl and the only classmate who had the courage to come to her aid?  Why was the teacher allowed to return to his classroom, while the school administrator was immediately placed on leave?  Who’s responsible for classroom management and discipline?  Surely not the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

If she had been escorted out of the classroom in a civilized, decent and appropriate manner, or counseled and disciplined after class, would she still have been arrested?  Restoring order shouldn’t require the degradation, humiliation and castigation of a child or a school-sanctioned captive audience.

Does a 16 year-old even have the capacity to fully understand the magnitude of her actions—let alone cause this?  A seasoned officer purposely positions himself over a student’s desk, slams her to the ground and throws her across the room, like she’s nothing.  And we want to criticize and condemn her actions?

Not happening.

This child is neither an animal nor a criminal.  She’s a human-being, who’s deserving of so much more compassion and consideration than she has been given.  To have been arrested, suspended and charged with crimes after the video was recorded, only adds insult to injury.

“Why didn’t she just do what they told her?”  “Why did he run when the officer told him to stop?”

Here’s the deal.  If disrespecting authority was a criminal offense or running scared, a justification for murder…we would all be locked up or dead.

I’m not attempting to absolve anyone of responsibility or accountability.  In fact, both have yet to be evenly appropriated.  But recklessly blaming and making assumptions about this student, while justifying the use of excessive, unnecessary force inflicted upon her, is almost as unconscionable as the violence itself.

I agree with Sheriff Lott about one thing.  “This video is just a snapshot, not the whole picture.” Let’s remember that when we feel compelled to bash and blame a verbally-defiant child for the vicious, violent actions of an adult.

There’s no justification for what this officer did to her on Monday.  If she were his daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife or dog, he’d be in jail right now.

And if she were my child, I would be too…