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Teacher who took phone partly to blame in pepper spray incident

May 17, 2023

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A high school teacher was pepper sprayed by one of his students after he confiscated her cell phone when she refused to put it away during class. In a video of the incident that has since gone viral, the teacher can be seen falling to his knees after being attacked a second time outside of the classroom.

But as Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence explains, it’s not just the student who was in the wrong.

The girl went to ten on her teacher, which he never should have let happen. From the video, it was clear that after demanding her phone back at least 20 times, this girl threatened to use pepper spray. That threat should have signaled to the teacher that the other students could be put in harm’s way. And they were when she sprayed him in a packed classroom.

Also, this same teacher was punched in the face a short time before by a student whose phone he also took away. So he was on notice that these kids have a very visceral response when you take away their lifelines.

And lastly, the teacher, blinded by pepper spray on his knees on the ground, still swung wildly so the student couldn’t grasp the phone when she reached for it. This said to me that the entire situation was about maintaining power and dominance.

Teachers do not have the necessary support and they are often unappreciated. Even so, de-escalation is an essential tactic that they have to have if they are going to be working with young people, especially those who put you on notice that they are going to engage in impending violence. While the young lady must face consequences and that teacher has to be smarter, these schools really need to fix their phone policies, because our society won’t fix the problems that make our country unsafe for our kids.

 

A video recently went viral of an Antioch Tennessee student pepper spraying her teacher because he took away her cell phone. While it’s unclear what the teen was doing with the phone, some people are saying that she was using it to cheat on a test or that she had simply just refused to put it away when the teacher instructed. No, she demanded that the teacher return her phone at least some 20 times before she started spraying him both inside the classroom and out. 

 

Regardless, what this girl did was criminal and also should be held accountable for it. But what he did was foolish and dangerous. You don’t take away a student’s phone under any circumstances because it’s not safe. We’ve created a society that is unsafe for children, and thus they need access to phones at all times. Phones are their lifelines. This is a hill I will die on and that’s primarily because children are needlessly dying in our country. 

 

The number one killer of kids in America is guns, and schools are in no place of refuge. Starting this year through March 29, there had been 89 gun-related incidents at schools with 74 people killed or injured, not including the shooters. It doesn’t matter if the phone would be returned to the child at the end of the day, when an emergency strikes, a child will need to access their key lifeline to reach people who need them. We know children are being murdered in the classroom and in just about every place in our country, given our obsession with assault weapons. For that reason alone, you don’t take away their phones. They must call loved ones during armed shooter lockdowns, communicate to law enforcement about where they’re barricaded. Some even need to share details on body counts. This horrifying reality resonated with a number of parents who saw the video online as they definitely appreciated the terror of being in a situation where there’s an emergency and you cannot reach your child. 

 

I don’t care what the school policy may be. Until we’re ready to stop sacrificing our kids to keep our guns, they need their cell phones on their persons at all times. It’s also worth observing that like adults, children have very complex lives. They may be caring for family members that require contact. They may suffer from disease or disability that requires tracking and medication reminders. They may even need to document misconduct by educators and administrators at their school. And also, they may just be living through very dangerous moments during school hours and thereafter. The very fact that the teen in that viral video was carrying pepper spray on her person communicates to me that in her life she has cause to be concerned for her safety. That’s reason enough not to take away her phone, her lifeline. Given all the factors that make this world unsafe for our children, confiscating a phone is not an acceptable punishment. If the student is using their phone to access test answers and cheat, fail them. If they’re scrolling TikTok instead of paying attention, give them detention. There are plenty of available remedies from kicking the kid out of class to sending them to the principal’s office. But taking away their phones? That is unacceptable. If the child refuses to learn, academic failure is the consequence, not jeopardizing their safety. 

 

With all that said, turning back to the viral video in question, I do have a few other observations that warrant conversations as far as I’m concerned. The girl went to ten on her teacher, which he never should have let happen. From the video, it was clear that after demanding her phone back at least 20 times, this girl threatened to use pepper spray. That threat should have signaled to the teacher that the other students could be put in harm’s way. And they were when she sprayed him in a packed classroom. Also, this same teacher was punched in the face a short time before by a student whose phone he also took away. So he was on notice that these kids have a very visceral response when you take away their lifelines. And lastly, the teacher blinded by pepper spray on his knees on the ground, still swung wildly so the student couldn’t grasp the phone when she reached for it. This said to me that the entire situation was about maintaining power and dominance. Teachers do not have the necessary support and they are often unappreciated. Even so, de-escalation is an essential tactic that they have to have if they are going to be working with young people, especially those who put you on notice that they are going to engage in impending violence. While the young lady must face consequences and that teacher has to be smarter, the schools really need to fix their phone policies, because our society won’t fix the problems that make our country unsafe for our kids.

 

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