Is it a PR problem?
“Nothing to see here,” Lt. Frank Drebin of Police Squad assured curious on-lookers as the burning fireworks factory blasted its colorful arsenal high into the sky.
Madison East high school has its own Frank Drebin in the person of Nikki Smith, the interim principal. (But aren’t they all interim these days?)
Principal Smith is outraged that her scholars recorded another fight at her institution. (Is Don Dunphy at ringside?) Outraged enough to alert parents. Not about the fight, about the recordings. A school wide dragnet is underway to bring the young videographers to justice. No one with an iPhone is above suspicion. The interim principal warns:
“It is important to note, any student who records and shares videos of an altercation is subject to consequences following the Behavior Education Plan, leading up to out-of-school suspension. We will be working to identify and follow up with students who engaged in taunting, baiting, and inciting the altercation. [Oxford comma inserted.]
“This behavior is absolutely unacceptable and has no place in our school.”
It is heartening to hear such unequivocal language emanating from Madison Metropolitan School District. No appeals to Equity, no mealy mouthing about disproportionality or implicit this or that. Buzz buzz buzz. Sounds like the sanctions awaiting these smartphone warriors would make even Vladimir Putin pee his pants. We can imagine a week’s worth of Restorative Justice, whatever that is. (Something like Breakfast Club, we suspect.)
As for the fight itself, nothing to see here — though bad enough to warrant calling in Chief Shon Barnes’ dreaded tonton macoutes and put an ambulance on standby. Standard operating procedure this school year — not the subject of the principal’s all-parent alert, only a dependent clause.
No, it’s those damn pictures, as Boss Tweed complained when muck-raking cartoonist Thomas Nast exposed his misdeeds. We can only conjecture how many thousands of views the smartphone videos have attracted in just two days. School board elections are a month and a half away. Republicans are writing parental rights legislation up the street. The optics are bad. Let’s hear what brother Bloggeur Greg Humphrey has to say:
I am stunned Smith sees the problem being the students who would digitally record the violence so that taxpayers who fund the schools could be made aware of what happens in the buildings. … In this time when everyone everywhere films at will, how are the fights in schools now forbidden to be captured? Is the real issue the filming of the fight or the fact there are just so many violent acts at Madison East to be filmed?
Blaska agrees but hedges with a Yeah But. The Werkes cuts Principal Smith a couple inches of slack. The principal is correct to write, “intentionally being a spectator to such conflicts is unsafe, unhelpful, and can cause the situation to become more volatile and dangerous to our students and staff.”
Kids holding smartphones aloft aren’t exactly breaking up a fight. The attention likely encourages the combatants. We suspect some in the audience were rooting for their favorite. (The Werkes takes Juwon Howard in the third round.)
Blaska’s Bottom Line: We can be thankful that bystanders recorded Officer Chauvin and his team that day in Minneapolis. We agree with Greg Humphrey who says, “Madison schools could simply get tough on the ones who continually disrupt our schools. Because no one, not even an interim principal, should need to ponder what consequences students should face when fighting occurs on school grounds.”