Pepperspray as school punishment
December 22, 2011 7:07 PM   Subscribe

"Today’s lawsuit details how mace is used against children who are completely restrained and pose no threat to themselves or others in the school environment. These children are accused of engaging in normal but non-dangerous adolescent misbehavior – after which the adults taunt and celebrate their punishment."

A civil rights group claims pepper spray has been used on students in Birmingham about 100 times in the past five years.
Students in Birmingham, Alabama, can be sprayed with pepper spray due to small fights, bad behavior or - shockingly - excessive talking,
posted by 445supermag (35 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Bullying culture combines with how-dare-those-children-not-comply.

I thought we'd abandoned this kind of thing after Dickens wrote of it over a century ago. I guess not. Smike, Mister Squeers has something for you!
posted by hippybear at 7:12 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

How on earth would spraying children with pepper spray help? Insane.
posted by mek at 7:18 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

As the old joke goes, the sprayings will continue until morale improves.
posted by jaduncan at 7:19 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nothing teaches civilized behavior like violence, right?
posted by yeloson at 7:20 PM on December 22, 2011 [9 favorites]

FWIW, Kamran Loghman, one of the inventors of pepper spray, is appalled at the increasingly indiscriminate use of pepper spray against non-violent people. If he feels this way about the use of pepper spray on adults, I'm sure children being sprayed would give him an aneurism.

This is horrific.
posted by Misunderestimated at 7:24 PM on December 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is from December 2010, by the way.
posted by mek at 7:24 PM on December 22, 2011

They're just teaching kids how to prepare for a lifetime of civil complacency.
posted by phaedon at 7:26 PM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

The case is still apparently awaiting a decision, due in the new year.
posted by mek at 7:26 PM on December 22, 2011

Every time I see something like this I have to remind myself that the vast majority of adults working in public schools are doing good work at a thankless job. In my experience though, public school teachers and administrators were the worst bullies of all, taunting children who had been pepper sprayed sounds like typical public school teacher behavior to me. They wonder why inner city youth drop out and distrust authority when they have been subject to abuse at the hands of teachers every day.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:32 PM on December 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

I could have probably done with some pepper spraying when I was a kid.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:45 PM on December 22, 2011

Maybe go hang out with the local OWS franchise, cjorgensen. Better late than never, and I'm sure your local cops would be happy to oblige. (Insert obligatory my local cops are the best and would never do anything like that, amirite?)
posted by spacewrench at 7:48 PM on December 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

posted by JHarris at 8:11 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Jesus Christ. It's like our whole society is locked in the Stanford Prison experiment.
posted by maxwelton at 8:18 PM on December 22, 2011 [21 favorites]

I just wrote three different rants and deleted them all. This makes me so angry.

The Birminghan public school system, top to bottom, is incompetent, corrupt, and does not give a single fuck about these kids. What few good teachers there are, and there are some, are overwhelmed, ground down, and quick to move on.

This is a school system serving a population that is overwhelmingly black and poor. And the school administrators have made damn sure to make the schools as bleak and prison-like as possible.

I do not know ONE SINGLE PERSON who graduated from Birmingham public schools who does NOT have a criminal record. I am not exaggerating.

The school system is a means of institutionalizing brutality and preparing kids for their future role as convicts.

It's fucking disgusting.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:28 PM on December 22, 2011 [9 favorites]

Wait -- I take that back. I do know one person who attended Birmingham puic schools and who doesn't have a criminal record.

He's a drug dealer whose mother works as a Birmingham cop.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:34 PM on December 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

If any school staff had ever tried something like this on me it might have ended as an aggravated murder trial. Fuck, I'm so angry even just reading about it.

I was already getting beat up at home as well as at school with the tacit permission and blind eyes of the adults in charge, but being tortured like this would have made me snap like a cornered animal.

This is outrageous. I need to go for a walk.
posted by loquacious at 8:34 PM on December 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

I maced myself by accident when I was 9! Just a little spray. It didn't turn me into a hardened criminal, but no, it wasn't a fun day.
posted by miyabo at 8:44 PM on December 22, 2011

The fact that this kind of thing has happened more than once anywhere (much less MORE THAN 100 TIMES!!!) and hasn't dominated the airwaves like Terry Schivo or Kim Kardishan makes me hopeless.
posted by gofargogo at 8:52 PM on December 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

I wonder if we were always this mean and cruel a culture and it's only now coming out. Some of the things that have happened as of late seem like a whole new strain of vile.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:44 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you are against this, you must be against spanking. "Bullying culture combines with how-dare-those-children-not-comply," indeed.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:19 PM on December 22, 2011


I wonder if spraying students with mace qualifies as "corporal punishment." From what I've read, it's still legal for schools in Alabama to use corporal punishment to discipline students.

The state I live in requires an FID card in order to carry mace. A class is required to obtain an FID card. Now, when I took the class, there was no mention of mace's use in disciplining students ... I had always thought that part would go without saying, but apparently not.
posted by hypotheticole at 10:23 PM on December 22, 2011

I want to adopt one of these kids and send him/her to a Birmingham school with instructions to vigorously defend him/herself if any adult ever lays a hand on em.
posted by LordSludge at 10:29 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

The thing about the Stars and Stripes, apparently it's very distracting. You think you see something seriously wrong, and then they wave that flag and it's all okay. USA! USA! USA!
posted by Goofyy at 11:06 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

The reason nobody cares is because it happens to poor kids. That is the honest truth. Half the county thinks these kids are one step above animals who need tough love to straighten them out. This is a vicious cycle where we neglect and abuse a significant part of population then chide them and tut tut when they fail to attain the arbitrary goals we set for them.

We had a thread a couple days back about the perception that immigrants seem to attain the American dream faster than groups that have been here for hundreds of years. Those immigrants weren't told they are total pieces of shit their entire lives and had people stand by and laugh as they were pepper sprayed.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:48 PM on December 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

The whole concept of pepper-spraying kids as a punishment is bad, wrong, disgusting and evil!
It does result in dangerous kids. These kids will be very dangerous in the event of total societal breakdown.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:02 AM on December 23, 2011

Do not taunt mace punishment.
posted by w0mbat at 12:33 AM on December 23, 2011

How long til we get Casually Spraying PE Teacher?
posted by Joe Chip at 1:27 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Matt Taibbi on Birmingham's rapid deterioration, as it relates to global finance. All the way to the top, eh.
posted by mek at 2:09 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

<laments image tag>
posted by jeffburdges at 6:21 AM on December 23, 2011

Are they spraying actual chemical Mace? Or is it Mace-branded pepper spray? Not that it makes a huge difference for the kids, of course. It's just that real chemical Mace isn't a very common weapon these days.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:05 AM on December 23, 2011

Are they spraying actual chemical Mace? Or is it Mace-branded pepper spray?

I'm not sure, but I know in the up-scale suburbs they use fresh-ground pepper spray.
posted by Floydd at 12:39 PM on December 23, 2011

Actually, it's *not just poor kids*. It's basically any kid who uses drugs or is thought to have done so or possibly has any kind of behavior disorder, particularly autism.

It's still legal for the Judge Rotenberg "School" in Massachusetts to use electric shock on autistic and other "troubled" teens. It's still legal to make teens drink water till they puke, beat them bloody with paddles, keep them up for days, put them in stress positions for hours, isolate them for weeks or months and basically use whatever type of corporal punishment short of killing them that you want in most states.

Oh yeah, and you can make lots of money for pharma by giving them expensive antipsychotics which have not been shown to help but have been shown to cause lots of nasty side effects.

It astonishes me that while much of the world has banned spanking by parents, not only do we refuse to ban corporal punishment in public schools, we refuse to even ban it in private unregulated institutions which are less regulated in many states than dog groomers or nail salons. And while we refuse to pay for talk therapies that might help, we'll happily spend $200,000 a year to lock them up at Rotenberg or similar amounts to drug them elsewhere.

Data is clear that positive behavioral approaches work best and kids today are no worse than their parents were (they may have different labels, but that's basically it and on many measures, they're actually *better*). This is just sick.
posted by Maias at 3:05 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

They're just teaching kids how to prepare for a lifetime of civil complacency.

If they were adults, they might have been pepper-sprayed to death.
posted by homunculus at 10:15 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Holy fuck, homunculus! Too bad those cops won't see Florida's death penalty.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:32 PM on December 23, 2011

Hey ad hominem, I'm not voting for pepper spraying but as a public school teacher, I'm not sure you understand exactly what it's like.

I had a student throw a metal desk across the room (with students in the room, obviously) last year. The same student threatened to 'stab someone in the face' this week. Some kid in nyc is in hospital this week after being stabbed in the neck with scissors by another kid over a fight over basketball. I was told to 'eat my ass' before 930 am the other day. Those are just examples off the top of my head. I am totally non-violent and a 5 foot 2 female. I don't want to pepper spray anyone but I did ask someone to buy some for me at one point after I got accosted by some huge guy on the train. I was terrified and unable to get off due to being on local train in extremely bad neighborhood. (I don't have it any more and never used it).

Theoretically, I totally agree with you. Public school teachers can be awful and the school systems are a mess. And pepper spraying someone seems completely and absolutely insane and over the top. However, just don't forget what teachers and cops are exposed to everyday. It doesn't make things right...but I just wanted to show the other side a bit from what I would consider to be an intelligent, rational and completely peaceful person. (Ok, me).

(I mean the actual issue of whether it's ok to pepper spray someone who is restrained for a minor infraction...of course that is crazy.)
posted by bquarters at 5:21 AM on December 24, 2011

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