School fights are nothing new. Kids have tussled with each other for generations. But today, widespread zero-tolerance policies have brought police officers into schools where they’re zapping students with stun guns. Many see it as excessive and potentially dangerous.
Earlier this year, a police officer shocked a Florida middle school student in the upper thigh with a Taser. The student and another boy “refused to stop fighting after verbal commands by law enforcement,” according to a statement from the Apopka Police Department, reported by WTFTV.
Anecdotal evidence and online searches suggest the police tase students more often than we think. However, as the Hechinger Report underscored, no one is keeping track of Taser use on students or studying the long-term harm of 50,000 volts on children. Moreover, the analysis says students of color are likely on the receiving end of a police Taser at a disproportionate rate.
NBC News reported researchers from Arizona State University and Drexel University found that a Taser shock creates short-term cognitive impairment similar to dementia. However, the study participants were adult college students, suggesting the harm could be greater on children. The researchers said getting shot with a stun gun also made some of the volunteers “emotionally debilitated.”
The Apopka Police Department defended its officer, telling WTFTV that using a Taser to end a school fight is “a common and accepted practice” across the nation.
However, a parent and student at Wolf Lake Middle School said shooting the boys with a stun gun was excessive.
“They’re (the students) not that strong. You can pull them off of each other,” student Hamid Amzal told WTFTV.
“I don’t think at any point, you should have to (use a Taser) on a child,” parent Maleah Reed added. “I believe an adult is strong enough.”
Searching online, the Huffington Post counted 84 incidents of police officers shooting students (12-19 years old) with a stun gun since September 2011. But that figure “is a gross underestimation,” because the government doesn’t keep track and many incidents are never reported, the Hechinger Report said.
The Huffington Post’s review of the 84 cases revealed school resource officers tasered students for a range of nonviolent behavior, such as talking back to a law enforcement offer.
These incidents also contribute to the school-to-prison issue. WTFTV reported that the police arrested the two Florida middle school students who were fighting each other.
When the police respond to incidents in schools, students of color are disproportionately arrested. That’s the case in New York City, the nation’s largest school district. A New York Daily News analysis of arrest and restraint data showed the disparity.
Students of color typically receive harsher punishments than White students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, African-American students are three times more likely than White students to be expelled or suspended from school. This disparity starts early. Black children represent just 18 percent of preschoolers, but nearly half of preschoolers are suspended more than once.