Viral video of student being body slammed raises alarm over use of excessive force

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When North Carolina teacher Tracy Phillips heard about last week’s incident involving a Wake County school resource officer body slamming a teenage girl, she couldn’t even watch the video. “I was so disgusted,” she says.

The video, which quickly went viral, shows a male officer picking up a slim African-American teenager, hoisting her in the air and dropping her to the floor before leading her away in handcuffs.

Tracy Phillips

It’s not clear whether the 15-year-old was trying to break up a fight between her sister and another student or joined the fight to help her sister. Either way, says Phillips, “you’re dealing with children and unless an officer is threatened, there’s no need for excessive force.”

The incident, which occurred in North Carolina’s largest school district, re-energized an ongoing conversation about the role of police officers in schools and the use of disproportionate force in disciplining students.

Bryan Profitt

“I taught in a school where the number of police in the building outnumbered the number of counselors on any given day,” says Bryan Profitt, president of the Durham Association of Educators, the school district that borders Wake County.

“I respected our school resource officers (SROs) but would rather have had four more counselors who could help the kids cool off if they were in the middle of some kind of crisis,” declares Profitt, who insists that providing the mental health supports students need would be a much better use of resources than creating a climate that normalizes the policing of students from elementary through high school.

“One SRO told me they’re prepared for the street but don’t receive training in how to deal with behavioral issues inside a school,” shares Phillips, who works in Thomasville City school district, an hour north of Wake County. “Clearly, we need ongoing training for everyone in the school community.” NEA policy recommends training for SROs on age-appropriate interventions and how to distinguish between discipline and criminal episodes.

Phillips, a middle school family and consumer science teacher, credits the lessons she learned as a member of NEA’s School Discipline Task Force with making her a more effective and compassionate advocate for her students. She also believes the recommendations and guidance in NEA’s policy statement can support the improvement of school climate and discipline outcomes.

Holding her own school up as an example, she says they’ve seen steady improvement in school climate by focusing on positive discipline practices, including a monthly focus group that provides students with a safe space for discussing school climate and discipline issues with administrators.

“A lot of this is just commonsense,” observes Phillips. “You don’t pick up a 15- year-old who’s not threatening you and throw her to the ground. Students don’t need to be slammed. They need to be taught. They need to be guided. And they need some love. Many of our students just need someone to talk with them.”

For more information, see NEA’s policy statement on school discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Reader Comments

  1. If the girls would have followed his instructions to begin with that never would have happened. This is what is wrong with our schools today we need more police officers slamming students to the ground. They would probably listen to him next time!

  2. I would like to know if the police officer was disciplined and what if any re-training the school system will require of their security staff.

    School police need training on de-escalation approaches but so do all police. There are better ways to deal with many situations than by adding to the violence.

    1. Sign of the times that we even need police in the schools. Schools have become violent enough to have this protection. I agree that the video shows excessive force, but what happened before that? I have seen much violence in children of all ages at school and out of school. Why do these children even have such extreme anger issues. When is parenting going to be responsible for upbringing a child?

  3. His behavior reflects the lack of training and inability to understand behavior management necessary in this situation as well as control his temper. Not only is this all too common , but given only a slap onthe hand bc his job appears to be too threatening to fill and districts are too lazy and uninformed about how to handle school disruptions and aggressive personalities. Question: Would he have thrown down a Spanish girl?

    1. He should have equal opportunity to slam anyone who doesn’t follow the rules. It’s time to quit horracing the police and start holding students and parents more accountable for their actions. If they only followed the rules and listen to his instructions nothing would have happened.

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