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VOL 3. NO. 21 Monday, June 4 - Sunday, June 10, 2001
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STRIP-SEARCHES & The Rise of the Kid-Haters
Frankly, I can't be one to join the growing ranks of psycho-babbling therapists, head-pickers, brain-teasers and psychic hot line gurus who charge you arm and leg to tell you what's up with your kids. After that, you get an unlimited supply of Ritalin, since all kids nowadays are afflicted by some mysterious form of knuckle-headed-it is called ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). Moving on, I'm not about to do that because parenting by itself is difficult enough. Why swallow some columnist's self-righteous tirade about how you should raise your kids?

However, I'm fairly rigid when social reflection arrives at the point of cultural refinement through government intrusion and the destruction of individual liberty as we know it. What you do in your home is your business.. Yet, politicians find interesting cracks in the Constitutional wall to impose legislative will and moral values, partly blaming the accumulation of social ills on the kids. Soon, the rest of us get agitated when every popular cable show or network T.V. phenom is ruined by impressionable, unsupervised and insane kids. Short of making recommendations by way of disparaging (but constructive) social critique, I'm drawing my own unique conclusions based on the evidence before me.

America can't stand its kids. It despises it children with every ounce of law making, pop-culture smashing energy it can muster. America loves it kids to showcase, but pushes them to the curb of disdain when dysfunctional tendencies become acutely clear. What ultimately results from deeply involved kid-hating is a fall into the adversarial mud wrestle match-up between "US & THEM."

The District of Columbia - including a recent unholy union between school system and corrections department - actively purges a salient and nauseating point. I have struggled in a mind numbing evacuation of common sense in search of why an embattled city institution would want to expose its equally embattled children to the seediest elements found in the criminal underground.

Granted there are some knuckle-headed, bad ass juvenile deviants terrorizing public school hallways on a daily basis. As nerve-wracked parents, we must watch in disbelief and desperation as the youthful innocence is shattered day in, day-after-day out: violence, drugs, sex … even poor health and obesity. But, in an effort to offset or eliminate rampant negativity, do you employ the negative vibe to such daring extremes?

True: exposure to a city correctional facility overflowing with disproportionate numbers of Black men can have an enormous impact on the mind of 14 year-old thug imitators. Yet, the question lies in the meaning behind organized mass strip searches and the shackling of students whom (save the blatant school yard infractions deserving the back handed slap of administrative punishment) never before stepped foot in a jail cell.

The motives of predominantly Black Evans Middle School in-house suspension coordinator Dorothy Simpkins are suspect: "I just wanted to keep them out of trouble -- let them know this is where you're going to wind up if you don't behave … I wanted some of the kids to experience the jail -- you know, the clink-clink, the bars." "Clink, clink?" What about the vast urban wasteland of prison-like, asbestos ridden compounds the students must settle into each day? What turns the stomach slightly is a subtle, post-slave Jim Crow era, Chain Gang reference reminiscent of a time when many Black parents imposed severe corporal punishment on their kids in an effort to deter disrespect of "the law," "the Man," and "Massah." I'm not blindly siding with the kids. Parents and other involved adults aren't expected to befriend the youth - but we are expected to properly guide them. It's a different day and age, folks. And perhaps that's why I'm disturbed by the stubborn insistence of institutions and individuals in our communities who feel overwhelmingly compelled to utilize hard line discipline at the expense of mental health and stability. In a time of need and uncertainty, I agree that efficient and swift discipline is warranted. However: is it discipline instituted to reinforce order and keep kids on the right path or is it imposed for the sake of simply making a point? From school office to church pulpit to home kitchen, the reprimands and parental bully tactics are constant, and the emphasis on the eventual destruction of youth is pervasive to the degree where kids as a whole are rarely complimented - hence, many begin to believe in the ridiculous notion of irreversibly unfortunate circumstances. Personally, the jailhouse field trip to Lucifer's Underworld was as tacky, ill advised and uncreative as it was inappropriate (Not to mention the D.C. Department of Corrections lack of written tour policies and Simpkins', as well as school Principal Diane Brown's decision to send female students the day after the horrific first visit by males). Why not integrate criminal justice and policy lessons into the general curriculum, ordering violating students to conduct vigorous research on crime and law in D.C. Certainly, a well-SUPERVISED tour of jail facilities and courtrooms is essential, as is a careful study of violent crime and drug activity in Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Just because some kids stray to the wild side, doesn't mean all kids are hopeless. Why not encourage intellectual awareness of the problem and recognize these "troubled Black youth" as, in reality, intelligent human beings?

They didn't have time for all that, though. I guess it's much easier to throw them all in jail and then toss the key.

C.D. Ellison is Contributing Writer to Metro Connection. He can be reached at againstthegrain@metroconnection.info.

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