February 5, 2010

"A 12-year-old Queens girl was hauled out of school in handcuffs for an artless offense - doodling her name on her desk in erasable marker..."

Headlines The Daily News. Why make a star out of a kid that defaced school property with graffiti? She's an especially cute girl, willing to pose with her wrists together in the handcuff position. I'm sure some readers appreciate the entertainment on that level. Do we know the whole story of why she was arrested and why handcuffs were deemed necessary?

The girl and her mother dish up the quotes:
"I started crying, like, a lot," said Alexa. "I made two little doodles. ... It could be easily erased. To put handcuffs on me is unnecessary." Alexa, who had a stellar attendance record, hasn't been back to school since, adding, "I just thought I'd get a detention. I thought maybe I would have to clean [the desk]."

"She's been throwing up," said her mom, Moraima Tamacho, 49, an accountant, who lives with her daughter in Kew Gardens. "The whole situation has been a nightmare."
Is stoking the victimhood feelings of your child like this a good idea? The girl did wrong, as she knows. She should apologize, straighten up, and rededicate herself to schoolwork. The mother should not tolerate the child's sickly overreaction — even if she believes the school is too harsh in its response to crimes committed by kids in school.
A class action lawsuit was filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union last month against the city for using "excessive force" in middle school and high schools. A 12-year-old sixth-grader, identified in the lawsuit as M.M., was arrested in March 2009 for doodling on her desk at the Hunts Point School.
Fine. Let the courts review the patterns and, if the schools are violating the law, provide a remedy congruent with the legal violation that leaves room for the schools to preserve discipline and good order.

77 comments:

Hoosier Daddy said...

Just wondering (other than the Professor) is there anyone out there in academia and if so, do they require you to remove the last vestiges of common sense when you get a teaching degree?

I'm being serious.

ironrailsironweights said...

Sorry, but the school principal should be fired and should forfeit all pension benefits.

Peter

Lisa said...
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Joe said...

One of the best ways to engender distrust of authority is excessive and irrational punishment.

This doesn't just apply to kids; years ago I witnessed first hand how the police handled a non-situation with friends of my oldest daughter. Needless to say, I now have very little respect for police officers. (To counter that, the same daughter was falsely accused of something and the detective who handled the case was an exceptionally kind and gracious man who worked hard to clear up the situation.)

rhhardin said...

Jean Shepherd admired kids that could throw up at will to get their way.

Lisa said...

You do realize that we haven't heard the school's description of what happened.

Julius Ray Hoffman said...

I look at it this way:

Getting in the Daily News is a crowning achievement for any New Yorker. And to be presented so well-- with such a nice picture and sympathetic story-- well, this girl and her mom have just done what people struggle for years or even decades to do! They had an opportunity to catapult themselves up to social recognition and, at the same time, to demonstrate the stupid mindless behavior of "The Man". They took it. Good for them!

Besides, Althouse... Where do you have this post? Up two from one where you are prompting the discussion-- with exhortations of seriousness-- of whether Howard Stern should be on American Idol. The social goal is the same in this instance as it is on that show.

Beth said...

If I ever display an Althousian deference to the kind of authoritarianism that handcuffs any kid for doodling on a desk, please, somebody, shoot me.

AllenS said...

I'll bet she drew a picture of a gun. Off with her head!

The Crack Emcee said...

This whole scenario - the school's as well as Ann's reaction to it - are wrong on so many levels it's insane to comment on how insane it is.

But for starters, when a good student starts vomiting after an injustice of this magnitude is perpetrated against her, it doesn't strike me as an unusual, nor a play for victimhood, but a very-real reaction to coping with such adult-sized stupidity.

Sorry, Ann, but you're tripping.

traditionalguy said...

Sounds like the Authorities are in attack the citizens mode again. Why do they feel no fear in doing that? When Janet Napolitano took her position as Homeland Security Czar she forgot all about the Muslim terrorists attackers and promptly ramped up watch lists for former soldiers and political opponents that may need to be arrested soon. What do they know about using a crisis that we don't yet suspect? But eraseable markers do outrage the authorities for sure. When we were in the public schools we used steel compass points from Geometry class tools to cut very permanent marks in desks and no one was criminalised for it.That would be a weapons violation today.

EDH said...

"...and a smiley face."

In that case, by all means: THROW THE BOOK AT HER!

(Or is that old expression too violent now?)

AllenS said...

I wouldn't be surprised that if they went through this girl's backpack, they'd probably find a picture of BUSH!

Michael said...

Julius Ray Hoffman is exactly right. We have so debased the culture that the trivial is profound while the profound is trivial or invisible.

AllenS said...

Pull her library card. I'll bet she has looked up ROTC!

PatHMV said...

You're way off here. There's been a growing effort to criminalize childhood misbehavior, and this appears to be a prime example of it. Handcuffs for grafitti on a desk in school? LUDICROUS.

Sure, the girl shouldn't have done it. She admits that. Her misbehavior doesn't excuse the FAR more serious misbehavior of adults who felt compelled to handcuff her in response.

Now, maybe she did something more, threw some sort of screaming, writhing tantrum when confronted, and the handcuffs were required for that, rather than because she wrote on the desk. But Prof. Althouse appears to accept the story at face value and accept the handcuffing even if it happened just as the girl said.

Oligonicella said...

"Why make a star out of a kid that defaced school property with graffiti?"

Schools are just places. Throughout history kids have "defaced" their desks with love notes and such. I remember that the college desks were filled with 'intelligent' doodlings.

What she did was typical and no big deal. What the school and authorities did, however, was a very big deal.

To rephrase - schools are not churches, they're just buildings where people pay for their kids to be educated. They are not sacrosanct.

AllenS said...

I have to agree with Pat. I'll bet that when she was confronted with the graffiti, she made a gun out of her hand with her thumb up in the air and her finger pointing at someone's HEAD!

She's a CHICKENHAWK!

garage mahal said...

If that were my daughter I would hunt that cocksucker down who handcuffed her to the end of the earth and back.

Quayle said...

Bankers and their politician friends rob us citizens blind and society yawns.

But catch an young girl with a pencil and justice is swift and immeasurable!

Perspective much?

save_the_rustbelt said...

Damn, they forgot to use the Taser and the leg irons.

Hoosier, I spent enough time in academia to know that after the contract is signed, the provost has you strapped to a table, a special machine is attached and all common sense is sucked from the brain.

Prof. Anne has much more sense than most of her peers.

Chris said...

Those "erasable" pens never really did erase very well.

AllenS said...

I sense your outrage, garage. As you've probably noticed, I've gotten myself in a lather over this story.

to the end of the earth and back

I hate to be picky, but are you suggesting that the earth is flat. Because otherwise, no matter how far you walked, I don't think you'll find the end. I'm just sayin.

kathleen said...

Schools criminalize the trivial stuff to deflect attention from the fact that they ignore the big stuff, like drug dealing in the hallways, sex in the bathrooms, utterly ineffective teaching, etc. It's a sick charade.

Theo Boehm said...
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Dust Bunny Queen said...

This is TWELVE years old?!?!

No wonder you guys are getting busted for consorting with minors and claim innocence. She looks like she's at least 20.

They really should just put the Nuns back in charge of education. The girl would have been wacked with a ruler on her palms, told to say some Hail Mary's and to clean up the desk.

And to remove all that make up.

Trauma over with.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

This is madness, of course. Setting aside the possibility that there may be another side to the story, the societal issue is that "we" have conspired to remove both authority and accountability from the people supposedly running the schools. An administrator who takes a common sense approach to such matters risks attacks from unions, parents, various interest groups, etc. with the likelihood that the school board, media and community will hang him out to dry. So why not just call the police? We need to establish that superintendents and principals are in charge, subject to appropriate oversight, and back them up. (None of which justifies the school's behavior in this case.)

Ann Althouse said...

"But Prof. Althouse appears to accept the story at face value and accept the handcuffing even if it happened just as the girl said."

Now, why do you say that? The first paragraph ends with "Do we know the whole story of why she was arrested and why handcuffs were deemed necessary?"

I'm not saying what the school did was right. Look at the last paragraph! I'm critical of The Daily News for making a star out of this (exceptionally pretty) child. I don't think this is good for her. I'm not saying the handcuffs were good.

Flexo said...

Why did they do this to her?

Because they can.

Because they are bigger than her.

Because in far too many places, those in positions of authority are thugs.

Because those in education, especially, seem to be weak little people who build themselves up by bullying children.

Monkeyboy said...

"Alexa, who had a stellar attendance record"

What no "honor student" or "never been a discipline problem?"

I would like to see the other side side of the story, its interesting (but not conclusive) that the only thing nice they said about her was that she showed up to school most of the days.

Thorley Winston said...

An administrator who takes a common sense approach to such matters risks attacks from unions, parents, various interest groups, etc. with the likelihood that the school board, media and community will hang him out to dry. So why not just call the police? We need to establish that superintendents and principals are in charge, subject to appropriate oversight, and back them up.

That’s a pretty interesting point and I don’t think it’s limited to just the school system. In my experience, people who are in a situation where they are expected to exercise responsibility but don’t have the authority carry it out, may often try to pass the responsibility on to someone else who does have the authority. If the teacher or school official in charge felt like they didn’t have the power to stop what is technically still a crime, why SHOULDN’T they contact the police and let them make the decision whether to enforce the law or not?

I don’t think that the school is necessarily in the wrong here. They’re not the ones who slapped the cuffs on the student, the police office made that decision. If a police officer has the legitimate authority to handcuff someone for writing graffiti on public property or whatever other offense may have been committed, then the student has no legitimate complaint about being handcuffed just because her offense happened to have occurred on school property during school time.

But I agree with your larger point, the long-term and better solution isn’t to call the police – it’s to give the people who we hire to run the schools and teach students the authority (with oversight) to maintain order so that they can do their jobs.

Jana said...

Kathleen is 100% on target. Much like the other school-overreaction story in the news -- the kid with the 2 inch LEGO gun -- this demonstrates how administrators use their tough "no tolerance" policies to appear as though they're cracking down on prepubescent malcontents. They have few viable solutions for the real social and educational ills that plague our education system, thus, they must create all these diversionary measures to affect a position of competency.

Peter V. Bella said...

If that were my daughter I would hunt that cocksucker down who handcuffed her to the end of the earth and back.

Handcuffing is a safety procedure to protect officers and to keep people from escaping. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, not is it immoral or inhumane. It is common to even hand cuff children.

I would rather hunt down the teacher or principle who allowed this to happen. Then I would water board them for about three days before I decided to actually torture them.

ken in sc said...

As a retired middle and high school teacher, I can imagine several things going on here. One is that the girl has been doing things like this and other things maybe worse for months, and the parent(s) and administration have not backed up the teacher(s) in stopping it. Another possibility is that the district authorities have removed all the tools teachers had to deal with this behavior, such as holding students after class to clean desks, detention, writing sentences and so on; leaving arrest for vandalism the only remedy left. Of course, the teacher could have just been an obnoxious jerk, and called the resource officer; I don’t know. Usually, the administration is involved before any arrests are made.

ken in sc said...

Oh and yes, there are definitely 12 year old girls who look like they are twenty.

Duscany said...

"Do we know the whole story of why she was arrested and why handcuffs were deemed necessary?"

Because the officer found an atomic bomb in the bean burrito she brought for lunch?

edutcher said...

'm surprised no one has mentioned this happened in the nanny state that is Michael Bloomberg's New York. In a city where the mayor demands trans fats are banned, does this really shock anybody?

Theo, when you and I were kids, nuns were so tough, after you were drafted, Parris Island or Fort Benning felt like an island of kinder and gentler in comparison.

Lindsey said...

I think that girl is maybe wearing chapstick.

Smilin' Jack said...

Do we know the whole story of why she was arrested and why handcuffs were deemed necessary?

Yes, we do: Because neither cops nor teachers are exactly the brightest bulbs in the chandelier.

The girl did wrong, as she knows. She should apologize, straighten up, and rededicate herself to schoolwork. The mother should not tolerate the child's sickly overreaction — even if she believes the school is too harsh in its response to crimes committed by kids in school.

Crimes?! Srsly? You recently and unapologetically admitted violating the speed limits in half a dozen states. "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

bagoh20 said...

Maybe I'm from a distant land, but a young girl getting overly upset about getting in trouble is not new, unusual or disturbing to me. Putting her in handcuffs is all three. I never saw a child that young in handcuffs my entire life. Are 12 year old girls that much more dangerous than before? Or are our adults just assholes today?

Shanna said...

It is common to even hand cuff children.

It is?

This is yet another idiotic overreaction story. Either suspend her and send her home, give her detention, or leave it be. Why were the police necessary at all? Was this the school's on duty police officer, like we had at my high school?

DADvocate said...

Your way off base, Ann. You should be more concerned about the abuse of power by authorities. They need to be embarrassed in the Daily News and more. I'd spent half my youth in handcuffs under such rules.

In my kids school system a teacher who taped a hard to control students to their desks and put tape over their mouths. No prosecution, no handcuffs, name kept out from the public. Fortunately, they don't handcuff kids for writing on desks either.

Freeman Hunt said...

Ha. At exactly the same age, a friend and I defaced the back of a seat on the school bus with pens and markers. We wrote all over it. Quotes, doodles, that kind of thing. I don't know what we were thinking.

Then the bus driver found it. She handed us cleaning supplies and told us to clean off every bit of it. If it didn't come off, she said, she'd tell our parents and we'd be replacing the seat.

It took a lot of scrubbing, but it all came off. (Bus seats must be made out of some kind of space material.) Never did anything like that again.

Had we been arrested (!), I would probably have thought that the school was run by insane people and would have started acting more rebellious.

Freeman Hunt said...

I agree with Peter. If this story is accurate, whoever picked the punishment should be out of a job. Very poor judgement.

Freeman Hunt said...

A better, yet still strict, punishment: Keep her after school for a week, scrubbing down desks.

Freeman Hunt said...

I remember exactly one time when somebody was marched out of school in handcuffs. It was a guy accused of rape.

Luckily he didn't also write on any desks.

(Whoops, actually there were two times. The other time, two girls were arrested for jumping another girl and giving her such a beating that she had to go to the hospital. They may have also written on a desk somewhere; I don't know.)

Lisa said...

A teacher cannot put someone in handcuffs... only a police officer can. So don't blame the teacher for that.

At least in my building, should I call 911, the district is notified immediately and on the phone with me within 60 seconds to determine what happened and what their response should be.

However, many middle schools have a police officer stationed in the building or at least assigned to the building. If someone were arrested from such a school, it was likely done by calling the school resource officer directly.

We still don't know the school's side. People are calling teachers (as a group) stupid because of this yet they don't know if it is true or partially true. Having taught middle schoolers for a decade now, I can tell you that they love to use partial truths and are fantastic at lying.

Jeremy said...

"Is stoking the victimhood feelings of your child like this a good idea? The girl did wrong, as she knows. She should apologize, straighten up, and rededicate herself to schoolwork."

How do you know she hasn't apologized?

Maybe she should just be taken out and shot.

I mean, c'mon...doodling on a desk?

What's worse than that?

The Crack Emcee said...

"c'mon...doodling on a desk?

What's worse than that?"


Clearly, being pretty, and looking older than twelve,...

Nora said...

More likely, being bored by the teacher out of her wits.

Almost Ali said...

DailyNews: "City officials acknowledged Alexa's arrest was a mistake."

Too much Merlot, or Althouse is pulling someone's leg.

The arrest was wrong on so many levels, even Marsha Clarke could win the case.

Street justice, however, should be handled by the New York branch of the IRA.

Methadras said...

I don't know the full context of this Doodling Caper, but I can tell you that this, at least in my mind is a disproportionate response to a seemingly trite incident. One, that could have been erased as into non-existence. I think there should be an activist or two that should question the NYPD's training stance on handcuffing 12 year old doodlers. Did she get her miranda rights read to her I wonder? What would the charge be? Illegal graffiti? Vandalism of school property? and what of the vandalized desk? Did someone erase the offending doodle yet? What was the doodle of I wonder?

My all-seeing-eye is sensing some deep pockets coming up.

Methadras said...

Ah, I reread the article. I know what the horrid doodles are of now. OFF WITH HER HEAD!!!

Gregory A. Butler said...

A) Handcuffing a 12 YEAR OLD CHILD for DOODLING ON A DESK is absolutely ridiculous - anybody who thinks that is appropriate is totally out of touch with reality.

b) that comment about it being "entertaining" to handcuff a 12 year old - that's just sick!

c) speaking as a former New York City Department of Education employee, I can attest to the out of control abusiveness of NYPD School Safety Agents - the schools were much better when EDUCATORS, rather than cops, made disciplinary decisions - this case is but the latest example of that.

Andree-Anne said...

"sickly overreaction" describes you perfectly, Althouse. You are really demented. Get help!

Jodie said...

Oh for heaven's sakes. The only thing this kid needed was a couple of afternoons after school cleaning desks. Handcuffs? Ridiculous!

Ann Althouse said...

Gregory A. Butler said..."A) Handcuffing a 12 YEAR OLD CHILD for DOODLING ON A DESK is absolutely ridiculous - anybody who thinks that is appropriate is totally out of touch with reality."

I didn't say it was appropriate to handcuff a child for defacing school property. I said: 1. We haven't heard the whole story, just the way the girl and her mother present it and 2. The Daily News shouldn't make a star out of the girl for a number of reasons. Please reread more carefully and control your hysteria this time.

"b) that comment about it being "entertaining" to handcuff a 12 year old - that's just sick!"

Again, you are having a problem reading. I am analyzing why the Daily News ran with this story and presented it the way it did. One theory is that readers will enjoy the story because of the picture. If it had been a homely boy, it wouldn't have been the same.

"c) speaking as a former New York City Department of Education employee, I can attest to the out of control abusiveness of NYPD School Safety Agents - the schools were much better when EDUCATORS, rather than cops, made disciplinary decisions - this case is but the latest example of that."

I don't know the details of how teachers have had to deal with disorder in the classroom in NYC, but I'm inclined to want to help them and the students who are not disorderly. So you were an "employee"? Presumably, you weren't a teacher or you'd have said "teacher." What was your job and what did you have to do with classroom disorder?

Ann Althouse said...

"The only thing this kid needed was a couple of afternoons after school cleaning desks."

What do you know about this child's disciplinary problems? Don't you think you should have the full story before you second guess the people who were there and responsible for what goes on in the school?

JamTheCat said...

Lady, what the hell is wrong with you? A 12 year old girl is dragged off to jail for doodling on her desk and you snipe at her for being cute? But first you defend a man who's actually accused of committing a felony and think he justified his actions?

Jesus Christ, you are totally screwed up. Get therapy, please.

Ann Althouse said...

@JamTheCat Read my 2 comments above yours, reread the post, think, then apologize for you misreading.

Zhuge Liang XLII said...

JamTheCat,

You're absolutely right. I didn't know that Ann was so thin-skinned that she demands an apology everytime someone calls her out, but there you have it. Shame on her.

jmack said...

I don't care what kind of backtracking you are trying now that people have called you on this nonsense. Your original post clearly criticizes the girl for being "willing to pose with her wrists together in a handcuff position" and her family for "stoking [her] victimhood."

As others have noted, you need help.

The Exalted said...

Ann Althouse said...

What do you know about this child's disciplinary problems? Don't you think you should have the full story before you second guess the people who were there and responsible for what goes on in the school?


No, as a functioning adult, I do not. What mitigating circumstances have you invented that could justify the arrest?

Also, your attempts to conflate childish doodling on a desk with "classroom disorder" or "crimes" are beyond comical.

Jodie said...

Even if this child had "other disciplinary problems" (which does not seem to be the case from this article), it is STILL inappropriate and an overreaction to take her out of the school in handcuffs for doodling on her desk -- the only infraction the article cited. If she pulled a knife on the teacher or another kid, sure! But she didn't do that -- she drew on her desk, something that kids have done since schools were invented. She didn't even use profanity or permanent marker.

bob said...

I think it's amazing that Althouse thinks the Daily News is making a "star' out of this girl. I can't believe you saw that picture of a `12 year-old girl and decides to sexualize her. Unfathomable.

You have issues, you should look into this.

ethan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andree-Anne said...

Bob said:


I think it's amazing that Althouse thinks the Daily News is making a "star' out of this girl. I can't believe you saw that picture of a `12 year-old girl and decides to sexualize her. Unfathomable.

You have issues, you should look into this.

2/8/10 12:49 AM
-----------------------------------
Indeed! That's sick.

A Hermit said...

"Is stoking the victimhood feelings of your child like this a good idea? The girl did wrong, as she knows. She should apologize, straighten up, and rededicate herself to schoolwork"

She doodled on her desk with an ERASABLE MARKER! She should be handed a damp cloth and told to wipe it off, not terrorized by being handcuffed and dragged off to a police station. Who calls the cops over something like this?

Her parents are right to sue everyone involved.

Exordium said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

"`12 year-old girl and decides to sexualize her. Unfathomable."

"Sexualize" is your word. Aren't you ashamed of yourself?

Ann Althouse said...

"She doodled on her desk with an ERASABLE MARKER!"

You are taking one side of the story as the truth. I would like to hear the whole story. I don't know what actions were involved. "Doodled" is a word that conveys a certain feeling about how lighthearted and childish it was. We do not know that.

And "erasable" marker is marker intended for a white board, where it is erasable.

Pencil is erasable too. On paper. Do you think a 12 year old is being merely mischievous if she scribbles on things with pencils.

Again, I'm not saying that the arrest and handcuffing are warranted. I am just saying that it is a shame that all the assumptions are being made against the teachers/police and that the girl is being made into a celebrity over this.

It should be handled well, in a balanced way.

Michael Kwiatkowski said...

Let me get this straight. A girl is arrested for scribbling on her desk with an erasable marker, and you see nothing wrong with this? You argue that the girl had this public humiliation coming? Especially when the news article(s) on the matter do not report any violence from Ms. Gonzalez? At most, she should have been made to stay after school, clean up the erasable stain on her desk, and write out that she won't do it again five hundred times before being allowed to leave. But come on, jail? You're reaching pretty far out on the proverbial limb on this one.

Tom P. said...

A better, yet still strict, punishment: Keep her after school for a week, scrubbing down desks.

No. Keep the teacher, principal, cop, DA who prosecuted, and judge who gave her community service after school for a week cleaning desks.

emily said...
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emily said...

I used to be a teacher. And by far and away, one of the hardest things to do is be consistent, consistent, consistent.

(I'm sure parents can attest to this as well... I distinctly remember things I didn't get to do that my younger siblings got to do. Kids don't let parents--or teachers--forget perceived wrongs. Now take your children complaining of unfair treatment and multiply that by 35)

We have rules in place that dictate things like: you may not swear and yell at your teacher, you may not tag your desk (or, kathleen, deal drugs in the hallway or have sex in the bathroom). These rules are in place because without them the school can't function. And we also have consequences when rules are broken.
Sticking to the stated consequence keeps the school running, and keeps it fair:
if student does A, I will respond with B.
Sometimes holding to the policy can be really hard, (well... I'll just this once accept the late homework) but it really is the best policy.


Now graffiti:
Graffiti was a BIG problem at the school at which I taught. So were gangs. And the two are not unrelated. When I started teaching, I was completely green and couldn't decipher the tagging, or appreciate its significance (and to be honest, I still can't). But my fellow teachers impressed on me that it was a BIG DEAL--as in, much bigger deal than some marking that had to be wiped clean or painted over.
And so we had a zero tolerance graffiti policy.


So put these two things together: a zero tolerance graffiti policy put in place to KEEP KIDS SAFE, and a desire to treat kids fairly and impartially, and therefore to stick to school policies (including graffiti policies). It is a recipe for what occurred.


I am not saying the situation should have played out the way it did, with a 12 yr old being led away in handcuffs. I *am* saying that some of the criticisms leveled against the school show a gross misunderstanding of the conditions (and the necessary policies to deal with those conditions) in some of our urban schools.

tfcocs said...

"The mother should not tolerate the child's sickly overreaction — even if she believes the school is too harsh in its response to crimes committed by kids in school."

Are you kidding? The child vomits, and you sneer at her? Would you have been more satisfied if she had been indifferent to the arrest?