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Kymberlie Ingalls is native to the Bay Area in California. She is a pioneer in blogging, having self-published online since 1997. Her style is loose, experimental, and a journey in stream of consciousness. Works include personal essay, prose, short fictional stories, and a memoir in progress. Thank you for taking a moment of your time to visit. Beware of the occasional falling opinions. For editing services: http://www.rainfallpress.com/

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Today's Assignment: Discipline 101

"Colorado police and school officials are defending a decision to pepper spray a second grade boy who threatened to kill his teachers."

I'm not honestly sure how I feel about this story.  An eight-year-old child is subject to an adult punishment, but where do we draw the line on how to discipline these kids?  Aidan Elliot is not a typical eight-year-old.  He didn't simply yell out "I hate you!" like any other kid would.  He threatened the lives of his teachers, and he did it with specificities following a violent tantrum, and it's not his first time. 

By his own admission, Aidan admits this.  "I said I'm going to kill you once you get out of that room."  I think the part that gets me is his mom, Mandy Elliot, seems quick to push the blame on to the school.  "I think there is a problem, but it's with school and Aidan," - just because the boy is doing his venting at school, doesn't mean the school is the root of the problem.  Not that every parent of a child with behavioral problems is to blame, but there's something more going on here than not liking a few teachers. 

One site's story claims "Aidan told Good Morning America that he regrets his behavior, but when asked if he meant to injure the teachers with the piece of wood, he said, "Kind of.""

Another reports "By the time police arrived, young Aidan was in a full-blown meltdown. He had ripped molding from the wall and tossed chairs and a TV cart around the classroom. He had grabbed a stick and chased his teachers into the office, where they locked themselves in. “I wanted to make something sharp,” he told NBC News. “I was so mad at them.”"

But now, here's another side of the coin, and why it makes it so hard to form an opinion in these stories.  The police are claiming that they demanded Aidan drop his 'weapon,' and when he refused, they sprayed hm.  Aidan is claiming the other way around.  "He said that he had already dropped the stick when police sprayed him. “The first time they said it, I just kind of did it slowly and then once it touched the ground, that’s when it happened.”" 

Who are we to believe?  This brings much weight to the old adage - there are always three sides to every story : his, hers and the truth.  Do we believe a child now that he's calmed down from his rage?  Or do we take the word of police officers, who are garnering a bad name for themselves in the press lately when it comes to truth-telling?  Authority, in general, has shot their own credibility in the ass.  I speak from personal experience. 

If the officers sprayed a no-longer-armed child, it's reprehensible.  If they sprayed an 'armed' child, it's extreme and unnecessary.  But then again, had they simply overtaken the child, even in a reasonable matter, to take away his stick, that would have set them up for a violence suit.  Talking doesn't always work.  It's a great first attempt, but as someone trained in negotiations of conflicts, as well as in crisis matters, it really doesn't always work. 

There is no right answer, but a lawsuit isn't warranted here.  Money will not solve everything, he was already in therapy so this incident doesn't make that a sudden necessary thing.  Aidan admits he has behavioral issues, his mom knows he has issues, and he wasn't physically scarred from the incident.  If the officers behaved inappropriately, they need to be disciplined - no doubt about that. 

I hate to say it, but maybe Aidan can take away the experience that part of managing his anger is to think about it first, and during a rage episode too.  It's never to early to learn from our life experiences, good or bad. 

(c) Kymberlie Ingalls

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