As part of the PCCY's effort to advocate against criminalization of student behavior in schools, we are posting this and other first-person accounts of discipline responses in our schools. Below are accounts -- addressed to Comprehensive High Schools Regional Superintendent Michael Silverman -- from both the grandmother and student in this incident, whose names are being withheld. We are awaiting a record of the officer's side of the story. But based on the information here, how do you think all parties could have handled this incident differenty? a previously reviewed suspension report makes no reference to assault or weapon. -Sheila Simmons, Education Director, PCCY
February 17, 2009
Dear Mr. Silverman:
Please be advised that my name is (name withheld). I am the grandmother and legal guadian of (name withheld).
I was called on February 11, 2009 by Officer (name withheld) SPO (school police officer), to inform me that she would be suspending my granddaughter and sending her home. I in turn asked her how long should I expect her to be coming home? She replied, "as soon as I complete her paperwork." This phone call took place before 10:00 a.m. I waited all day to no avail. I ran an errand and returned home at approximately 3:30 p.m. When my 12-year-old granddaughter informed me that a message on the answering machine left instructions for me to pick (name withheld) up from the 39th police district.
Sir I am irate and outraged -- but not amazed or surprised due to the direction that our world is going in. The adults as well as the children use profanity and have unacceptable behaviors. I also realize that we are living in a different day and age. But aren't the prisons filled and overflowing enough, that we don't have to start going into the schools to advance the quota for the future? This is a way of preparing and getting our children ready for the future (for prison).
I could clearly understand if (name withheld) had a weapon or was in a serious fight with another student on a daily basis. Presently, I had been communicating with Ms. Davis and Ms. Chakavarity regarding (name withheld) mouthyness and not staying in her seat. I informed them that (name withheld) and her sister had just gotten involved in an after school program with the Dawn Staley Foundation at the Zion Baptist Church located at Broad and Venango Streets. I am constantly involved and ready to communicate with teachers if and when they call me. (name withheld) is not a problem at home. She is mouthy at times. I never have to wake her up at 6:00 a.m. in the morning to be on time for school. She performs her chores with minimal problem.
I frankly believe that I should have been given a call to be able to come in and have a conference, before the Officer allowed this to escalate. I further believe that the Officer may have a poor self image and feels that the children do not respect her due to her weight problem.
When I was in school, being arrested was unheard of. You usually had to do something serious and dangerous or have a weapon or something. (name withheld) is not in a gang, not did she endanger anyone else. I assure you, that I was not there. However, I do know my granddaughter very well. If she used profanity, it is because she had good teachers including her mother and other adults. I do not use profanity, however, the last time I checked, it was not against the law.
Dear Mr. Silverman,
My name is (name withheld). I attend Simon Gratz High School. On Wed., Feb. 11, 2009, I was arrested and suspended.
The first day I met Officer (name withheld), I walking down the hall and some girl said something smart (not my friend that I was walking with). I said to my friend, "I will beat you up." We turned around and Officer (name withheld) was there. She looked as us crazy. I said, "No I wasn't talking about you." She replied, "I know you who you were talking to, her (referring to the girl I didn't know who had made the smart comment)." I said, "Who?" She said, "That girl right there." So me and my friend kept walking as I said to my friend, "I was talking to you." Officer (name withheld) assumed I was talking and referring to her. I thought it was over and done. When Officer (name withheld)saw me a couple minutes later and told me to come there. I went and somehow she put me in a lead(sic)-lock and tripped me.
Afterwards I got up, my friend was laughing and we just left. I saw Officer (name withheld) again in the lunchroom, she said come here and I did not go because of what she had done to me on the third floor. "Come here!" I replied " No, I'm not coming. I'm scared." People were telling me to go ahead, but they had not seen when she tripped me. She said, "You know what, come to my office you getting an EH42." I went into her office and she talked to me. She said, "My own family don't dissrespect me and I'll be damn if I let you disrespect me." So once she finished talking to me she dismissed me from her office and I left. As the days go by everytime she sees me she says, "Why are you on my floor?" I will show her the hall pass she will rip it up and say, "You no longer have a hall pass go to class." I will say smart remarks and walk away.
On the day we had a pep rally everyone was confused about what classes to go to. I had a couple minutes until my lunch, but Ms. Brice announced for everyone to go to the class they would normally be in. So I went to the third floor (Ms. Yaich's class) but no one was there. So I was about to go back to the auditorium and I saw Officer (name withheld). She said, "Go to class." I replied, "No one is in my classroom, I don't know where to go." As I was telling her why I was in the hallway, she was paying me no attention. Then she said, "Come on Mr. Schreulder we go!" She gripped me up and threw me on the elevator.
When we were on the elevator, she got in my face and said, "This job don't mean Sh** to me. I will FU** you up, for real." I did not reply. I just was smirking. She took me to the academy leader (Mr. Schreulder) and told him about me. He talked to me and told me to go to lunch.
One day we were getting our report cards so the bell rang at 2:30 p.m. (15 minutes early). I came to the third floor to get my belongings to head home. Everyone is coming out of their classes to go home and she comes over to me and say, "Why are you on my floor?" I say nothing back, and she says it again. I said, "Miss, it is after school, I'm coming from my locker." She said, "Get off my floor." I'm like, it's after school, the bell already rang." Then I got my belongings and left. She still was talking, I said, "Bye girl." She said, "Do you want me to tell you something that's going to hurt your feelings?" But I just went down the steps.
Now on February 11, 2009, is when she suspended me and got me arrested. The bell rang; I'm going to my 4th period class (which is on the 3rd floor). I see Officer (name withheld), everyone is in motion in the hallway, and she comes to me and says, "Get to class." I walk on talking to a friend. I said, "I'll see you at lunch." Officer (name withheld) said, "If you come down there, you are going home for three days." I said to my friend, "Never mind, I'll see you in 5th period." So I'm walking along, she still saying go to class as I'm walking. I was walking and talking with my friend when she came over to me and gripped me up and threw me against the wall and put the handcuffs on me. She took me to the school police office and wrote me up. She was throwing everything out of my bag looking for my school I.D., as I was telling her that it was not in there. Once she was done throwing my belongings around, she said, "Where is your I.D." I said, "It is in my wallet." She took my I.D. and filled out the paperwork. After the paperwork was done, Officer (name withheld) was ready to take me to the exit door. My belongings were still scattered around, when I asked her, "Could she get my belongings." She looked at me and said, "Come on!" I put my back against the wall waiting for her to get my items, and she started to grip me up as I was snatching away. The police officer who was also in the office at that time said, "Take her to the district, Serg wants his office clear anyway!" Officer Burton again went to fill out additional paperwork. And the 39th police district came and I was transported.