My Reading List for Fall, 2015…

My reading has suffered because of the internet. I’ve been doing reading on the internet, but it is not the same. I learn much more from reading print books, so here are some books that I am interested in reading. I am currently reading four different books in bits and pieces, something I never used to do…

What I am Reading Right Now…

1.) Separate Pasts by Melton McLaurin

2.) The Autobiography of Malcolm X (re-reading)

3.) Corregidora

4.) The Marines of Montford Point

What I Want to Read…

1.) Marcus Garvey

2.) Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

3.) Strange Fruit by Lillian Smith

4.) The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

5.) An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

6.) Bad Feminist Essays- Roxane Gay

7.) The Last of the Savages by Jay Mclenerney

8.) Compelled to Crime: The Gender Entrapment of Battered, Black Women by Beth E. Richie

9.) Brown Girl Dreaming

10.) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

11.) African Civilizations: An Archaeological Perspective by Graham Connah

12.) The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

13.) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

14.) Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

What the Officer at Spring Valley High Could Have Done…

I recently came across an article, related to the Assault at Spring Valley High. The article was quite infuriating to me. The same old blame the victim excuse looms on, so I had to respond.

Some people have asked the question, “if the officer was wrong for throwing the young lady across the room, then what should the officer have done to get the girl to comply?”

Well, instead of focusing on what the cop could have done differently, ( it should go without saying that officers should know how to safely and effectively restrain a non-violent person), I’m going to focus on somethings that might have been done to prevent this situation from transpiring altogether.

First, the only time that the level of physical force exhibited by Officer Ben Fields is justifiable is when a person has a weapon and is a physical threat to others. This was not the case at Spring Valley High, so the force was not needed.

Here are other things that could have been done:

  1. Set clearer expectations and consequences: In order to follow the rules, some students need expectations to be clearly modeled. When dealing with students displaying defiant behavior, it’s important to set clear, consistent expectations and consequences and post the expectations around the room. There should be a clear  “Cell phones belong in your back pack,” expectation and it should be visibly posted in the room. 
  2. Collect all student’s phones at the start of class: I worked in an educational setting with teenagers and the instructor had a “Tech. box.”  The expectation was at the beginning of each lesson, students place their technology (phones etc.) in the box and they collected the cell phone after class.This works for students who are just too tempted to use the phone. They are being set up for success by having the temptation removed.
  3. Use Positive Behavior Support: This is an evidenced-based practice used by mostly by psychologists and special educators, it is very beneficial for children who have emotional/behavior challenges.  This technique and an incentive plan could have been developed if this student was consistently breaking the cellphone expectation.   “PBS provides a process to understand and resolve the problem behavior of individuals or children that is based on values and empirical research. It offers an approach to develop an understanding of why the child engages in problem behavior and strategies to prevent the occurrence of problem behavior while teaching the child new skills.”

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4. Talk to her privately: You see children are not robots. They have their own feelings and children have things they are going through too. When working with students, it’s important to build a relationship and a sense of trust. If they don’t trust you, often they may not listen to you. This is important for children with emotional/behavior challenges, especially. If the adults in the situation had talked to the young lady, they may have better understood why she wasn’t following directions. Did she not understand the work, was she depressed because she just lost her mother and was not able to focus at that time?

5. Use positive guidance: “That’s a nice cell phone you have there. Let’s wait until after class to use it though.”  “That’s a nice cell phone, but where should your cell phone be during class?”  “[Student’s Name], can you please put your cell phone in your backpack so that you can focus on the lesson.”

If that doesn’t work, you can give a choice…

“Here are your options, you can put your cell phone away now and use it later during free time,” OR “you can continue to use it now and  lose it during free time and for the rest of the day. What would you prefer?”

At that point, if the student is still defiant, then you let the Administrator or supervisor and the student’s guardian know that she has lost her cellphone privilege for the day and discuss with her after class about what she needs to do to earn her cell phone privilege back in the future. At that point, she made the choice to use the cell phone and lose it later.

6. Leave her alone: It’s possible that if the student had been left alone, she would have put the phone away and it would have been a non-issue.  Some students thrive off of attention, even negative attention, don’t feed into it. You have to pick your battles.

7. Give her a break: Some students just need a moment to take a break if they get overwhelmed in the classroom. You could have a “safe area,” or “break space,” set up. Go and talk to the girl and just say, “cell phones aren’t permitted in class, if you need to take a two minute break, you’re permitted to go to break space  and  quietly use your phone.”

Be sure you clearly set the expectation about the break space, you might use “break tickets,” and have a visual timer or digital clock set up there. You need to have already built trust with the student and presume that they will respect the safe zone and return to class once they’ve finished their break. They should understand that the break space is a privilege and in order to keep it, they have to respect it. 

8. Call the school counselor or another expert: If there is consistently a problem with a child being defiant in the classroom and you’ve tried using all of the above techniques and redirection strategies, then there may be a deeper issue going on.

The student could have an undiagnosed disability, the student could simply have other emotional issues going on. Sometimes, you just need to call for help. That may mean that an ABC (antecedent- behavior-consequence) assessment needs to be conducted or a Functional Behavior Assessment and a Behavior Intervention Plan is needed. (All of these assessments are designed to determine what triggers in the environment are prompting certain behaviors and reactions from the child and developing behavior plans that support positive behavior based off of these assessment.)

It could mean that the student just needs more encouragement because she’s struggling in the class and needs more private one-on-one sessions. It could mean she needs to see the counselor on a regular basis because she’s depressed from the loss of her mother.

9. Call the police: This is a resort, that I do not feel applies in this case.  This should only be used when a student is displaying violent or unsafe behavior that is a serious threat to herself or others. If a student has a weapon and is threatening someone or if a student is attacking someone or displaying a legitimate threat to others, contact the police.

In this case, I do not believe the police needed to be involved.

Refusing to get out of a chair is not police call worthy. Talking back to a teacher is not police call worthy. These are all defiance issues that can be corrected by the school.

Even so, in this case, when the  policeman was called (unnecessarily in my opinion) the police officer should have known how to use the safest and most effective restraint methods. If a police officer doesn’t know the correct procedures for doing that, they need to rethink their job or at least get some better training.

It is also worth stating that ideally school cops would receive special training in restorative justice and practice, but that’s another topic.

10. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Support: As someone who has worked in an educational setting, with many children who exhibited defiant behaviors, I know it is extremely difficult at times. At one point, I had a break down and ended up in tears out of frustration. Thankfully, my supervisor was very smart and an expert in special education and she was able to provide the support and resources that I needed to help my students and keep my sanity. I was able to help my students only after I A.) Built a sense of trust B.) Employed the above strategies. As adults, we are humans too and if you get the point where you feel like you’re about to breakdown or throw a kid across the room, walk away.

Flag someone down to watch the room, if necessary, so you can take a few deep breaths. 95% of the time, it’s not as bad as it seems. A kid talking back or a kid not doing their work is not worth going over the edge and losing your job.

Spring Valley School Assault: But, She Was Being Defiant & Other Excuses

Recently, a video of a teenage girl at Spring Valley school in South Carolina went viral. The video shows the student sitting at her desk when a police officer overturns the desk, throwing her to the ground and then across the room. He later arrests her.

[Google it if you want to read more, I have chosen to remove the video.]

Officer Ben Fields has since been fired. However, I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend on YouTube and in the media. I’ve noticed people are making excuses for the police officer and blaming the victim. Here are the common claims that I have heard.

Claim #1: “The girl was disrupting the class and being insubordinate, she brought this on herself.”

Claim #2: ” Black Youth today are out of control and the only way to maintain order is to use physical force. ”

Why I Disagree with these claims…

Claim #1: She brought this on herself..

As someone who has worked in an educational setting with children, some of whom exhibited disruptive behavior, there is no excuse for  the cop exhibiting that level of force with that student. 

There are proper procedures for addressing disruptive behavior. Specially trained educators and psychologists know how to address challenging behavior without using the force the police officer used. For example, they could have used a strategy called “Positive Behavior Support,” this is a form of behavior management that is designed to address challenging behaviors and reinforce positive behaviors.

Positive Behavior Support (PBS): “PBS provides a process to understand and resolve the problem behavior of individuals or children that is based on values and empirical research. It offers an approach to develop an understanding of why the child engages in problem behavior and strategies to prevent the occurrence of problem behavior while teaching the child new skills.” 


I have used Positive Behavior Support when I faced challenges with a student who used profanity and had a habit of throwing chairs and it was very helpful and the student showed great improvement. Sometimes it’s a simple as giving the younger person a choice. You say, “here are your options, you can either give me the phone and stay in the classroom or you can keep the phone and go to the principles office. What would you prefer?” All of these are strategies that special educators use to work with students who are being defiant.

You can also use restorative practice to address challenging behaviors.

I think the student not putting the phone away was a minor infraction that could have been rectified by using the best practices I mentioned above. Also, if the student continued to be defiant, then proper procedure would be to do a Functional Behavior Analysis, which is just an assessment that determines triggers in the environment and observes student responses to certain triggers. You then formulate a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) based off of the Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA) to determine if there are some other underlying issues that are affecting the students behavior.

Using these strategies is called being professional, what I saw in the video was not professional. Unfortunately police officers in schools are not often trained in any of these strategies.

Claim #2: ” Black Youth today are out of control and the only way to maintain order is to use physical force.”

I do not believe that Black youth today are bad or out of control. I think many youth today are up against insurmountable odds and unfortunately many teachers and police officers are not trained to meet the high needs of students today.

Because of the criminal justice system, many younger people, especially younger Black people have to deal with excessive stress at home and in school. The impact of mass incarceration on black communities has been disastrous, fathers and mothers have been stripped from the home and many families are left in poverty. As a result of the intersection of the criminal justice system, racism and poverty, some students are dealing with unimaginable stress and all of this impacts their ability to be successful in school.

Students, especially young Black students are caught in a system where racism, poverty and mass incarceration intersect and some students are developing trauma histories or emotional/behavior challenges because of this. How can you possibly expect a child to focus and trust an adult in school  when they see police brutalizing people in their community for no reason every day. I worked with a child who at 9 years old developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after witnessing a young man being beaten by police outside her apartment. Every time she hears a siren or sees someone in uniform, she has a panic attack. These are things that many young people deal with.

As a result more and more children are coming to under-funded, under-resourced schools with trauma histories or emotional/behavior disabilities and the schools do not have enough trained teachers, special educators or psychologists to provide the necessary supports for these students. There is also not enough diversity within the teaching staff at schools. At the elementary level, 90% of educators are white females. What does that say when young Black children don’t have any Black role models to look up to? What message does that send?

Black children’s needs are not being met, they’re being suspended, expelled or they drop out from the stigmatization and then they end up in the school to prison pipeline. 

The advent of the mass incarceration policies and poverty has placed youth in an unimaginably difficult situation and for many it is difficult to be successful in school because of this.

Also, the school system comes down hard on Black children. Studies have shown that even when Black and white children exhibit the same challenging behaviors, the black student is more likely to be punished due to implicit bias by teachers.

The school system is failing too many Black children. Even Black preschoolers are being suspended at rates not seen before.

There is nothing wrong with the young people, there is something wrong with this society and until we overcome racism and reform the criminal justice system and reform the school system, Black children are going to continue to fail and be mistreated in school.

With all of this information, it’s no wonder that more Black parents are choosing to home school their children. 

What We Need Is:

1) An End to Mass Incarceration

2) Spend less money on putting police in school and more money to Increase Special Educators, Psychologists in schools

3) Smaller Class Sizes

4) More Teachers of color

5) Police Officers who are trained in Restorative Practice

6) An End to mandatory Standardized Testing

Tips for Dealing with Defiance

“All lives matter”

Originally posted on Abagond:


“All lives matter” (2014) is what some White Americans and their hangers-on cannot seem to stop their colour-blind racist selves from saying when the phrase “Black lives matter” comes up. Not just ordinary people, but even those running for president – in both parties.

“Black lives matter” became a catchphrase and the name of a protest movement in 2013 after George Zimmerman was found not guilty and got away with killing Trayvon Martin. The phrase and the protests took off a year later after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Over the past year or so citizen video and Black Twitter have made clear to the nation what many Blacks have long known: that police regularly kill Blacks and get away with murder. As if Black lives do not matter.

So at the very least, under the circumstances, saying “All lives matter” in answer to “Black…

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