A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, March 23, 2009

Encouraging kids to fight in school, parts 1 and 2

Our latest Educational Numbskull Award goes to the nutcases running this place:
AUSTIN, Texas – Nine employees are under investigation over allegations of new fights among mentally disabled residents of the troubled Corpus Christi State School, a state lawmaker said Saturday night.

State Rep. Abel Herrero said the workers are on leave while officials look into complaints that the staff members did nothing to intervene in the fights involving residents Wednesday and Thursday.

The new allegations follow six staffers being charged earlier this month with injury to a disabled person over separate fights allegedly organized for the staff's entertainment. Videos of those fights were found on a cell phone.

"Appalling," said Herrero, a Corpus Christi-area Democrat. "Completely unacceptable. It's important that the state exhaust every resource to once and for all ensure the safety and well-being of our state's most vulnerable population." Herrero had few details involving the new incidents but said one of them involved accusations against six staff members and the other involved three workers. At least one of the incidents was reported in a phone call to state investigators. The workers were accused of having been nearby when fights occurred but not intervening.

Jay Kimbrough, chief of staff for Gov. Rick Perry's office, told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that the recent incidents don't include allegations that fights were encouraged by employees.

On Friday, video of the earlier fights were shown at a Corpus Christi bond hearing for a former employee accused of staging the bouts. State officials, local police and the FBI are investigating the allegations of staged fights.

The videos from Timothy Dixon's cell phone included two residents repeatedly punching each other while staff members cheered. The residents tried to choke each other before one threw the other to the floor. An employee then kicked the resident on the floor. Dixon, 30, is among six facing charges of injury to a disabled person.

Four of the six current and former employees have been arrested. Two others were believed to have moved out of state before the investigation, police said. Herrero said Friday that at least two staff members were being investigated over the new fight allegations.

There's so much to be disgusted over, but looming largest to me is this one: Who hired people who think that encouraging mentally disabled people to fight is a form of entertainment? Any time the decision is made that someone, no matter how morally bankrupt they are, is better than no one, then the person doing the hiring needs to take a vacation or find a new line of work.

But wait! There's more from the Lone Star State! Pay special attentian to the boldfaced sentences I have included:
DALLAS – The Dallas school system was rocked by allegations Thursday that staff members at an inner-city high school made students settle their differences by fighting bare-knuckle brawls inside a steel cage. The principal and other employees at South Oak Cliff High knew about the cage fights and allowed the practice to continue, according to a 2008 report by school system investigators.

"More than anything, I'm in shock and disbelief — shocked that this could ever occur and shocked that it would be condoned by a professional administrator," said Jerome Garza, a member of the Dallas school board. The report, first obtained by The Dallas Morning News, describes two instances of fighting in an equipment cage in a boys' locker room between 2003 and 2005. It was not clear from the report whether there were other fights.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told the newspaper that there were "some things that happened inside of a cage" and called the fights "unacceptable."

No criminal charges were ever filed, and there was no mention in the report of whether anyone required medical attention or whether any employees were disciplined. A district spokesman would not comment. The allegations came to light during a grade-fixing investigation that eventually cost the high school its 2005 and 2006 state basketball titles. School officials were suspected of altering students' grades so that they could remain eligible to play for South Oak Cliff, a perennial basketball powerhouse in one of the poorer sections of the city.

The newspaper reported Thursday that Angela Williamson, a parent, said she was ignored when she attempted to bring the matter to the attention of district administrators after her son, Cortland, told her that students stood around clapping and screaming while watching a fight he participated in. He and another student fought for five to ten minutes in the cage in 2004. She said the students acted as if they were in an arena.

Williamson said she took her son out of the school and moved to another district shortly after he came home with a swollen hand. "I said enough is enough, and we just left," she said. "This was the norm. My son said this is what they do — let them fight in 'the cage.'"

She said she met with a football coach who had encouraged the fights.

"He told me this is how they settled disputes in his day," she said.

In an interview with the Morning News, Donald Moten, who retired as principal last year, denied any fights were held.
"That's barbaric. You can't do that at a high school. You can't do that anywhere," Moten said. "Ain't nothing to comment on. It never did happen. I never put a stop to anything because it never happened." In the report, a teacher was quoted as saying Moten told security personnel to put two fighting students "in the cage and let `em duke it out."

The report said a hall monitor, Gary King, told investigators he witnessed the head of campus security and an assistant basketball coach place two students in the cage to fight. Another hall monitor, Reno Savala, told investigators he came upon two students fighting in the cage "bare-fisted with no head or eye protection." Savala said the assistant coach was watching the fight and broke it up when Savala told him to.

"It was gladiator-style entertainment for the staff," Frank Hammond, a fired counselor who has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the district, told the newspaper. "They were taking these boys downstairs to fight. And it was sanctioned by the principal and security." Hammond did not actually witness any of the fights, according to the report.

Garza, the school board member, said the board should look into whether criminal charges should be filed. Dallas police said they have no record of any investigation by the department. The district attorney's office would not comment.

The allegations come about 10 days after law enforcement authorities reported that careworkers at a Corpus Christi institution forced mentally disabled residents to fight each other and recorded the brawls for their entertainment.

Now look, "back in my day," kids did fight each other on occasion, but rarely were the fights at school and rarely did anything worse than a bloody nose occur. Then, the fight was over when it was over, and other people didn't jump in. It still didn't make it right-- but I am never going to apologize for punching the neighborhood bully after he tried to hurt my baby brother --repeatedly. Of course, we ended up as friends, eventually. And yes, I have to admit that there have been a few students that have passed through my classroom in which I knew that if he had had an "attitude adjustment" from a peer at an early enough juncture in his life, he would have probably been much less of a scaly little reptile.

But back then, parents would have never dreamed of suing over every little gust of wind that blows. Back then, kids did not bring weapons to school, except for the pocket knives we all carried as tools, but you certainly didn't use those as weapons.

Now? Now kids bring guns and knives to school in kindergarten. Now, there is no such thing as a common fistfight. Now, parents will sue over minor disagreements among kids. Now, kids react violently to being looked at wrong.

I think it's time for Coach "Back in My Day" to retire-- voluntarily, or better, forcibly. But being that he's a coach of a winning team in a part of the country where high school sports are taken WAAAYYYY too seriously, I doubt that will happen.

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At 3/23/09, 8:21 PM, Blogger Butterfly Angel said...

Gah, only in the 'great state of Texas ~ football is a religion! I am ashamed to say I live here at times.

Are we headed to Hades in the proverbial hand basket?



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