The Unhealthy Disciplinarian Impulse

There is an interesting post up at Swords Crossed about children being handcuffed and arrested under questionable circumstances.  Brenden goes in a few different directions, but I don’t want to dissect everything he says.  I want to focus on a few of the examples:

There is a subset of cases involving police handcuffing children that does not fit the above picture. A kindergarten student arrested for a temper tantrum. A little boy fingerprinted for being on a dirt bike. A girl handcuffed and detained because she had a pair of scissors in her backpack. Is this just unavoidable backlash as the terrible crimes committed by a few children naturally alter our evaluation of the danger posed by any child? Or is something else going on?

In some of these cases, the reaction to the rule breaking is almost laughable in it’s absurdity:

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed claims by Tracy Hedgepeth that Metro Transit Police Officer Jason Fazenbaker illegally searched her daughter’s backpack and treated her unfairly when he arrested her Oct. 23, 2000, after watching her enter the Tenleytown-AU Station and pop a single french fry into her mouth.

A French Fry.  The officer in question had nothing better to do than detain a girl for eating a french fry in public.

That aside, this is just reinforcing a sickening relationship between the authorities and children.  Brenden notes:

So when we read that police handcuffed a child, the natural reaction is to wonder what the kid was doing. Maybe there was a weapon involved, or perhaps other students or bystanders were at risk.

Why is it a natural impulse?  Why do we automatically assume someone arrested must have been doing something wrong?  That the response was probably appropriate?

What are the effects of these arrests?

Since he was handcuffed, photographed for a mug shot and fingerprinted Tuesday afternoon — all for allegedly sitting on a dirt bike on a sidewalk — Gerard said he is afraid to talk about it.

Charging documents state that Gerard was charged with riding a dirt bike on city streets.

“This has changed his life,” she said. “He’ll never be the same.”

When you hear that a 7 year old was handcuffed and arrested, what is your first thought?  We often talk as a society about being overly litigious.  Perhaps we ought to be talking about being overly bound by petty rules and a disciplinarian mind-set.   After all, this is primarily a case of those with power controlling those without.

The resulting effects of this on a society are not healthy.


2 Responses

  1. Disciplinarian mindset. Exactly.

    I get that from my dean, who was voted into that position just a few months ago by a committee with student representatives. We’re a graduate program for ambition-crazed type-A nutjobs, and she feels the need to cling to a disciplinarian mindset.


  2. I remember a case when a little girl was throwing a temper tantrum… she was waving her arms and yelling. Police were called, the girl was arrested and taken to jail, and the video of the incident was shown on tv.
    Her tantrum looked identical to any I’ve seen from a small child. The signs of “violence” that seemingly threatened the teacher were ridiculous. I’ve had kids wave their arms like that at me, and I haven’t felt threatened by it since I was six.
    Disciplinarians overreact to the wrong things from kids. At the same time, they go easy on cheating and lying (which, for the record, should be punished with bad grades, no more, no less.)
    Hopefully, people will start making more sense soon. Hopefully…

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