Avon cop overreacted at school
Little boys are supposed to get into scuffles on the playground. But they’re not supposed to go home from school handcuffed, frightened and probably traumatized in the backseat of a police car.The 10-year-old boy cuffed and driven home by Avon police Officer Dave Wineman on Feb. 17 was mistreated, plain and simple. The police department, Avon Elementary School and the town of Avon screwed up badly – they failed a little boy to whom they are supposed to provide a comfortable place to get an education.Who cares if he’ll never trust cops – the boy can get by in life disliking the police. But one wonders if he’ll ever feel comfortable in his school and if that uneasiness will damage his ability to learn there.The town is not releasing the officer’s report, but it’s a load of baloney – if not outright demented – for the town to say a 10-year-boy, one of the smallest students in his class, was deemed by Wineman to be a threat to himself and the other students. The boy was supposedly in a school office at the time, and there are no reports that he was either armed or acting in a threatening manner.Maybe the officer was bored because there hadn’t been a lot of action at the school – not a lot of call for police power in the halls of an elementary. Or, new on the job, perhaps he was looking to show the little kids who’s really boss – that even the principal can’t protect them from the police.Our society has gone a little bit mad when we react to childhood tiffs and squabbles with armed police and handcuffs. Are we that hysterical about violence – are we that afraid – that we treat a child who steps out of line as if he were an armed robber or a suicide bomber?And what is a police officer doing in an elementary school anyway? As far as we know, there hasn’t been a lot of violence, gun-running or hijackings at the school.A reader, identified as SJH from Basalt, summed up this fiasco well on our Web site: “This is clearly an over-reaction on the part of the school and law enforcement. For cryin’ out loud! The kid was already emotional and afraid. Did you have to threaten him with harm to his parents!? C’mon people. Kids have conflicts. Adults have conflicts. Not everything requires the intervention of law enforcement.”Police don’t even belong in an elementary school. However, their presence, if sensitive, can be appropriate in middle and high schools, where there truly may be a threat to other students, teachers and other employees. The idea behind so-called “community policing” is to build trust between police and students looking for help or advice, not incarceration. Actions like those of Wineman, however, are likely to shatter any trust built up.If we don’t want to raise a generation of nervous, timid children, they’ve got to be allowed to screw up, and learn from their screw ups. And chances are, if two kids really have it in for each other, there’s nothing a police officer is going to do to prevent violence. Kids, along with being fallilable, are also crafty and often very determined.An appropriate way for the school district to respond to this screw-up in Avon is to kick all the cops out of its schools, and call 911 when police presence is actually needed.We’ve got sort of a twisted view of children in America: We think they’re precious but it seems we’re also afraid of them. We fret about their fragile self-esteem, but we’re eager to crush their budding personalitles with rules and punishments.We blab about how special they are, how they’re the future, how they should be protected at all costs, but we don’t seem to have any patience when they get into playground scuffles or say a dirty word or have a tantrum – when, actually, they’re just acting like kids.Vail, Colorado
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