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Madness: Even School Children Are Being Pepper-Sprayed and Shocked with Tasers

An alarming series of incidents offers some insight into how casual police have become about deploying "less lethal" weapons.

There is something truly disturbing about a society that seeks to control the behavior of schoolchildren through fear and violence, a tactic that harkens back to an era of paddle-bruised behinds and ruler-slapped wrists. Yet, some American school districts are pushing the boundaries of corporal punishment even further with the use of Tasers against unruly schoolchildren. 

The deployment of Tasers against “problem” students coincides with the introduction of police officers on school campuses, also known as School Resource Officers (SROs). According to the Los Angeles Times, as of 2009, the number of SROs carrying Tasers was well over 4,000.

As far back as 1988, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Congress of Parents and Teachers, American Medical Association, National Education Association, American Bar Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics recognized that inflicting pain and fear upon disobedient children is far more harmful than helpful. Yet, we continue to do it with disturbing results, despite mountains of evidence of more effective methods of discipline.

Torturing Kids Into Compliance 

Neil Davison, author of "Non-Lethal” Weapons, has carried out extensive research on the history of weapons like the Taser, used to subdue individuals without causing permanent injury or death.

In a 2006 study on the early history of less-lethal weapons, Davison observes, “Electrical-shock weapons have their roots not in policing or riot control but in farming and torture.” He references Argentina, which replaced the barbed cattle prod “with an electrical version, the picana electrica, in the 1930s” which is considered “the first electronic stun technology” and “was soon adopted by the Argentinean police as a torture device for use during interrogation.” Davison adds that an “examination of the US patent record illustrates the close connection between the development of electrical weapons for use against animals, which had been patented from the early 1900’s onwards, and those for use against humans.”

Basically, the devices used to control animals and torture Argentineans, both abhorrent practices, have entered the realm of school discipline...and the results have been appalling, to say the least.

In April, the  Wichita Eagle reported on Jonathan Villarreal, a sophomore at Derby High School who was ordered to pull his pants up by two school police officers while walking to the bus after school. The 17-year-old refused, arguing that he “could wear them how he wanted because school was out.” According to Villarreal, corroborated by three student witnesses, one officer “pulled him to the ground by the neck and told him to stop resisting arrest,” which Villarreal denied he was doing.

The officers then “kneed him in the back and neck while he was on the ground.” As he struggled to get up, Villarreal was repeatedly “pushed back down,” at which point “he felt his arm break.” As Villarreal was held on the ground by two officers with a broken arm, “one officer fired a Taser at his chest.”

A police department investigation determined that the officers were “justified and reasonable” in their response because Villarreal was allegedly “yelling racial slurs at a group of students” and resisting arrest, which they faulted for the teen’s broken arm. Although a lawsuit was never filed, the police department made several changes in Derby’s SRO policies to help reduce potential abuse.

On September 29, Keshana Wilson, 14, was shocked in the groin with a Taser while shoved against a parked car by Allentown, Pennsylvania police officer Jason Ammary, just outside her high school. The incident was captured on surveillance footage. Allentown police argue that the officer’s behavior was justified because “Wilson was cursing and inciting a group of people” as well as resisting arrest. While defending his fellow officer, Allentown Assistant Police Chief Joseph Hanna argued, “officers are trained to use the justified amount of force dictated by the actions of the resister, not their age or gender.” 

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