Are Public Schools Becoming Prisons?

This comes from J. Richard Cohen of the Southern Poverty Law Center:

It’s not right for a 6-year-old boy to be handcuffed and shackled to a chair by an armed security officer because he “acted up” in school. But that’s exactly what happened at the Sarah T. Reed Elementary School in New Orleans. In keeping with our work to reform the abusive juvenile justice system in the Deep South, we’ve filed a lawsuit against the school district to stop the brutal and unconstitutional policy of chaining students who break minor school rules.

Our client, J.W., is a typical first-grader. He’s just four feet tall and weighs 60 pounds. He enjoys playing basketball, being read to by his parents, coloring and playing outside with friends. But his school treated him like an animal. Within one week, he was twice forcibly arrested, handcuffed and shackled to a chair for talking back to a teacher and later arguing with a classmate over a seat. The amount of force used on J.W. was simply ridiculous and, predictably, inflicted severe emotional distress. Shockingly, this level of punishment is official school policy. We’re not just fighting for the rights of J.W., but for all the students at Reed Elementary.

Unfortunately, J.W.’s story is hardly unique. All across the nation, schools have adopted draconian “zero-tolerance” policies that treat children like criminals and turn schools into prison-like environments. The primary function of school is to help educate our children so that they can become productive, well-informed adults. These policies do just the opposite — they seize on any opportunity to criminalize behavior and eject children from schools, driving up dropout rates.

Since being chained and shackled, J.W. has become withdrawn and afraid to go to school. His counselor reports that he has been “deeply affected and traumatized.” We’re determined to hold the school and school district accountable for what they’ve done and to stop their barbaric treatment of children so that no one else suffers like J.W.

I went through similar experiences as a child in the Seattle Public School System, so I can relate to J.W.’s story. This is happening to children of all colors, though I suspect mostly males (as school policies throughout the country seem aimed at criminalizing natural male behavior), throughout the country as government bureaucrats seem dead set to focus their policy more as prison wardens than as guardians of future adults.

There was a quote by the great Ludwig Von Mises about the master-slave relationship, “We attack involuntary servitude, not in spite of the fact that it is advantageous to the ‘masters,’ but because we are convinced that, in the last analysis, it hurts the interests of all members of human society, including the ‘masters.’”

Mises’ quote applies to the public employees that are funded by taxpayers to terrorize children. That those entrusted with safeguarding children seem more than willing to arrest a first grader for “acting up” towards a teacher (God forbid children learn to think for themselves! We can’t have that!) or a 12-year-old girl for writing on a desk, with the outcry coming from outside groups and not whistleblowers, shows that the rot in the American public school is so bad that it has infected everyone who benefits from its perpetuation. This is, in the long run, bad even for the masters themselves.


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.