RJN!’s open response letter to DPS school board about handcuffing elementary school students

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April 12, 2017

Dayton Board of Education
115 S. Ludlow Street
Dayton, Ohio 45402
ATTN: Robert C. Walker, D.Min, President

Dear Members of the Board:
I am writing to you with a very heavy heart. I can barely express in word how saddened, upset, and utterly disgusted I am by your lack of action—to be noted that when the news calls you suddenly all hop to attention. I have witnessed from the seven of you an inordinate amount of disrespect to parents, student, and taxpayers of this school district. Not only have you gone against the will of your constituency by continuing the atrocity of handcuffing elementary school children, but your disregard of the concerns of parents and children is egregious. I see so much more clearly as to why:
1. DPS’s enrollment is shrinking
2. There are consistent complaints from parents as to how they are treated in schools
3. Why DPS ranks at the bottom of the state

The seven of you sat on your hands and did nothing when you received news of a nine-year-old being handcuffed. No phone calls to check on the well-being of our family, no public discussion about the significance of this issue/incident. Basically, your actions reflected “we really don’t care.”
It is a sad day when it takes a press conference with local news media to get a response from an elected official. You spoke right up after the press conference. You responded to the media, but parents can wait–that sends a strong message.

You dared to say that the SRO followed protocol. So, you agree with that protocol? You see this as an acceptable protocol is a school/learning environment? You would not be creative enough to develop a new protocol? I thought that is something that leaders do.
It hurts my heart to think that a child can come home and tell his mother that a classmate was handcuffed for not listening to a teacher and ask, “If I don’t listen will I be arrested too?” Well, the answer is apparently, yes. Yes, because the school board doesn’t give a damn as long as “protocol” was followed. Your disregard for the well-being of our children has and will continue to send students out of the district in search for some place that people will have their best interests at heart. You certainly do not.

In the broader context of society, the new president has declared an all-out assault on public education with a new, unqualified Secretary of Education. They have made School Choice a platform, one that will decimate DPS and here you all are, running parents and students right into their hands. You have made a terrible blunder–and a public one at that. You have made the destruction of the local public education system a very simple thing. You have broken the bonds of trust with parents and students alike and have set the example of disregard. Your commitment to the well-being of students is absent in your decision to uphold the “protocol” of handcuffing 9-year-olds. You have embarrassed yourself and this district. Believe it!
I am saddened for the district. Dayton Public Schools will suffer immensely from your reckless and heartless decision to continue the emotionally traumatic experience of handcuffing youth. Juvenile jails stopped shackling juveniles in court based on one of the best practices against shackling (handcuffing) proposed by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys stating that “youth are impressionable and the indiscriminate use of restraints in court has been shown to influence juveniles such that it negatively impacts their future behavior.” These are youth charged with criminal behavior, yet you say it is ok in school as long a “protocol” is followed.

I stand by what I said during the press conference that you ALL should be ASHAMED to say that it is ok for elementary school children to be handcuffed. You refuse to use your own common sense, but rely on what other people are doing, even though it is not considered best practice when it comes to rehabilitative outcomes for the child. Where is the leadership in that? You would rather listen to retired police officers that run the security department about how to treat children in schools. You would rather model yourself after someone else (in the context of a declining education system) than lead by example. All of your actions here are misguided, disengaged and does not put DPS students and parents first, at best.

You have set an extremely poor example for the new superintendent on how to deal with parents of the district. Not one of you reached out to us after we came to you in public with this complaint. Not one of you cared enough to hear what we had to say first hand. Not one of you spoke up in a public meeting about handcuffing children until angry parents went to the news. You ignored your constituents in public more than once in a most dire situation. SHAME on ALL of you.

You have destroyed parental trust and now the whole school system will suffer from your lack of leadership. This experience has exposed the distance between the board and their constituency- parents, students and voters. You all have shown that you are more concerned with your PR image than the actual families you serve. Families who elected you and entrusted the future and safety of their children with you. SHAME on ALL of you.

Your actions are not those of a champion of children rather the act of politicians. The report of the matter referred to the child as “a child in emotional distress.” So, you are deciding to support handcuffing a child who is in “emotional distress”. Have you ever heard of de-escalation? What about trauma? Has the board ever considered a holistic approach for children that includes more counselors and less cops (another point made at the March board meeting by several members of the community). Did you know that the student in this incident was in foster care at the time? Do you realize that this child has already been traumatized which may have been the reason the child was in “emotional distress”? Do you consider these things when it comes to so-called “protocol”? Most importantly, did you know that there have been there incidents of handcuffing at Valerie Elementary in the last two years? The most recent report says that the child left the district. Of course, he did. why wouldn’t he? So have many others with many more to come. If you cannot do the research and create best practice protocols and policies that are meet the social emotional needs of your constituents which that include hiring qualified staff to deal with the issues that the students have, then your goal is not education. You are the elected officials who, in good faith, were chosen to lead the next generation of DPS students. More and more parents are speaking out and we will expose the ugly truth.

This is not leadership. You call for our students to be innovative and change agents, yet you refuse to do any real research and come up with any real solutions to turn this district around. Is it because the district is too impoverished for you to really care? Is your assumption that our kids in this district do not deserve equitable and fair learning environments? Learning environments that support the children to thrive? The board had put on full display how little they know and feel about the children and families that they serve.

In fact, this inaction shows a larger problem from this board. We have had numerous parents say how rudely they are treated in the district and how staff members talk down to parents them. Your refusal to listen to the cries of parent’s echoes down through the school system. It is clear that you all are not at all concerned with the parents and students in your district. You are leading the narrative that tells the community, youth and parents, that DPS students are criminals. You are trying to control the masses with fear.

If you did your research, you would know that there are lock down facilities all over this nation with legitimate safety concerns that don’t use handcuffs or weapons, but you allow such tools to be used on students and wonder why the district struggles.

Understand, you are the reason why public education funds are being routed to charter schools and private institutions, considering Dayton has more charter schools (per capitol) than most of the country! Be careful or we will ensure that your voters know that you all a part of a much bigger scheme to get the district shut down, create more charter schools and eventually bail on the district all together. Sounds like a bail-out plan to me.
This is far from over! To God be the glory. All things work for the good of the Lord. We will not allow your misdeeds and improper actions to deter us from doing what is right by children. No elementary school child deserves to be handcuffed in a school setting where there are professional adults all around. You have come to an improper decision, but your actions have benefited the community in that they can see where you really stand and who you stand with. Clearly it is not with the children, parents and families of this district. You stand with police officers in schools. You stand with handcuffing elementary school children. You stand with the status quo of a failing education system.

We stand with the parents, families and children of this district despite the lack of care or concern that you have for us. You have provided a unique perspective for all of the community to see and there is no turning back now. A school is a school. It is not a prison, but your policy makes it a pre-prison environment. Your actions make DPS a pipeline to prison, which you are directly funding a half a million dollars to the juvenile jail. Your policies help to keep the sheriff and the courts employed.

Racial Justice NOW! opposes your policies. We hope that Superintendent Corr does not follow your terrible example of leadership. We hope that she puts children first, and listens to the concerns of families. Otherwise, she will find herself being pushed out yet another school district.

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