A Recipe for Disaster: School Cops Are Being Armed with 50,000-Volt Tasers
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One spring day this April, at the Franklin Correctional Institution on Florida's Highway 67, Sgt. Walter Schmidt pulled out his electronic immobilization device -- EID in correctional officer parlance -- and zapped two people, who immediately "yelped in pain, fell to the ground and grabbed red burn marks on their arms," according to the St. Petersburg Times.
The two were not inmates at the prison, however. They were students visiting as part of "Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day."
The move cost Schmidt his job, despite his claim that he merely intended to demonstrate how the devices worked. He had even asked the children's parents (who were also employees at the prison) permission first. "When they said 'sure,' I went ahead and did it," he told the Times.
"It wasn't intended to be malicious, but educational. The big shock came when I got fired."
Schmidt wasn't alone in his job-costing blunder. In fact, it came just one day after other children, visiting different prisons were similarly shocked.
"A total of 43 children were directly and indirectly shocked by electric stun guns during simultaneous Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day events gone wrong at three state prisons last month," the St. Petersburg Times reported on May 16. "One was a warden's daughter."
Their ages ranged from 8 to 17. Fourteen of the kids were "directly shocked." The other 29 were "indirectly exposed when they held hands with a person who was shocked. With the kids circled together, the electricity could flow from one child's hands to the next."
Walt McNeil, secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections told the Times, "I can't imagine what these officers were thinking to administer this device to children, nor can I imagine why any parent would allow them to do so. This must not happen again."
The bizarre rash of student electrocutions might have been an aberration on Florida prison grounds, but the guards -- three of whom were fired and two of who resigned -- might be forgiven for assuming that such devices are somehow safe for kids.
Even as news outlets across the country report episode after episode where police officers tase and use stun guns on unlikely people -- the pregnant woman at a baptism in Virginia or the 72-year-old woman in a Texas traffic stop -- more and more police officers are being given tasers to carry into schools.
And not just on college campuses; middle and high schools across the country are inviting Taser-toting cops on school grounds.
This comes at a time when Tasers have claimed the lives of hundreds of people, including three teenagers this year.
While heightened security might be a necessity in an age where kids smuggle deadly weapons to school, this fact alone should give parents and school officials pause. Even as school administrators and local law enforcement accept and incorporate Tasers as disciplinary measures, deploying them on school grounds is putting students at risk.
Is Breaking School Rules a Crime?
Last September, police officers in Hawthorne, Calif., tased an autistic 12-year-old boy at his middle school after he became "violent," launching a misconduct investigation by the police department.
In June, at Penn Hills High School in Pennsylvania, a student was tased in the hallway after ignoring a police officer's orders to put away his cell phone. ("The kid refused to listen," Penn Hills Police Chief Howard Burton explained, saying the student then "pushed the officer.")
In 2006, an 11th-grader named Angel Debnam was tased at her high school in Bunn, N.C., just outside Raleigh.