Alabama’s schools are in the news today:
An impressive 87 percent of Alabama’s 1,364 public schools met state standards in reading and math, according to the latest progress reports of test results released Monday.
The local districts were no exception:
More area schools met all of their academic goals this year, according to progress reports released Monday by the state Department of Education.
Jefferson County had 92 percent of its schools to meet all of their goals, up from 57 percent last year.
In Shelby County, 97 percent of the schools met their goals this year, up from 70 percent last year.
Birmingham this year had 80 percent of its schools to meet their goals, compared to 40 percent last year.
Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, schools must make adequate yearly progress, or AYP, each year on state assessments. Schools must meet state goals in reading, math and additional indicators. If any school fails to make AYP two years in a row in the same component, it enters school improvement status.
All three districts met AYP this year.
You can get commentary here, and here. My opinion? The results mean teachers have improved at feeding random facts to students, and students have improved at regurgitating them on standardized tests. Does that mean anyone is getting a better education now than they would have five years ago? Who knows.
Anyway, the real reason for this post is a case recently decided by the Eleventh Circuit.
Basically, during gym class at a Tuscaloosa school, nine (9) year old Laquarius Gray was not properly performing her jumping jacks. The teacher – Coach Williams – told her to go stand near a wall. She responded with something like “I bust you in the head.” Coach Williams and another coach, being grown men, in no way felt threatened by the nine (9) year old’s empty words:
Neither Coach Horton nor Coach Williams was afraid of Gray or believed that Gray would actually carry out her threat. When asked whether he was “ever afraid that [Gray] would commit an act of violence towards [him] or Ms. Horton,” Coach Williams replied, “No, sir.” Similarly, Coach Horton replied “No,’ when asked if she was “ever afraid that Ms. Gray would physically assault you or another student?” When asked, “[W]hen Ms. Gray told Coach Williams that she was going to bust him in the head she’s not actually physically capable of doing that, is she,” Coach Horton agreed. Coach Horton planned to talk with Gray about the incident and give her a warning. Coach Horton testified that she would not have been required to write Gray up, give Gray detention, or send her to the principal’s office “because it wasn’t that major.”
So that was it right? Wrong. Enter the school resource officer: Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputy Antonio Bostic. He decided to teach the nine (9) year old girl some respect:
Deputy Bostic told Gray to turn around, pulled her hands behind her back and put Gray in handcuffs. Deputy Bostic tightened the handcuffs to the point that they caused Gray pain. Deputy Bostic told Gray, “[T]his is how it feels when you break the law,” and “[T]his is how it feels to be in jail.” Gray began to cry. Gray stood with the handcuffs on for not less than five minutes, with Deputy Bostic standing behind her.
In discovery responses, Deputy Bostic averred that he detained and handcuffed Gray “to impress upon her the serious nature of committing crimes that can lead to arrest, detention or incarceration” and “to help persuade her to rid herself of her disrespectful attitude.” Deputy Bostic’s discovery responses also stated that he “did not feel the need to apologize to LaQuarius Gray for telling her that she committed a misdemeanor in my presence and showing her what would happen if a less generous officer than I were to arrest her for her actions.”
I am frigtened for all residents of Tuscaloosa County if Deputy Bostic is considered lenient. A nine year old girl – 9!! – smarts off to her teacher before she obeys his command. The remark is so innocuous that the teacher disregards it. Yet this guy slaps the cuffs on her and accuses her of criminal activity. Never mind his disregard of the Fourth Amendment, his actions show an extreme lack of good sense.
Thankfully, he is going to face a lawsuit for his irresponsible actions. The use of the cuffs violated the Fourth Amendment:
We likewise conclude that Deputy Bostic’s conduct in handcuffing Gray, a compliant, nine-year-old girl for the sole purpose of punishing her was an obvious violation of Gray’s Fourth Amendment rights. After making the comment, Gray had complied with her teachers’ and Deputy Bostic’s instructions. Indeed, one of the teachers had informed Deputy Bostic that she would handle the matter. In addition, Deputy Bostic’s purpose in handcuffing Gray was not to pursue an investigation to confirm or dispel his suspicions that Gray had committed a misdemeanor. Rather, Deputy Bostic’s purpose in handcuffing Gray was simply to punish her and teach her a lesson. Every reasonable officer would have known that handcuffing a compliant nine-year-old child for purely punitive purposes is unreasonable.
Here’s hoping that not only the reasonable officers, but officers like Deputy Bostic learn that lesson.