Tuesday, April 01, 2008

On the 3rd-Graders Who Tried to Hurt Their Teacher

"From what I understand, they were considered pretty good kids. ...But we have to take this seriously, whether they were serious or not about carrying this through, and that's what we did." --Theresa Martin, spokesperson for the Ware County school system. (AP)

Waycross, Georgia
--The only difference between most of us who were in the same situation as these kids is that we didn't make the attempt. Yes, you read it correctly. If you can remember back to being an eight-year-old, you'll recall the bad teachers who got-away with emotional abuse of their pupils. Educators cannot legally hit children any more--something that ended in this country during the 1980s from a rash of lawsuits--but that doesn't mean many of them aren't still tyrants. By-all-accounts, these are good kids without any previous indicators for this kind of behavior. As many as nine of them were so outraged by the behavior of this educator that they plotted to hurt her. All were boys.
Police say a group of third-graders plotted to attack their teacher, bringing a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape and other items for the job and assigning children tasks including covering the windows and cleaning up afterward.

The plot by as many as nine boys and girls at Center Elementary School in south Georgia was a serious threat, Waycross Police Chief Tony Tanner said Tuesday.

"We did not hear anybody say they intended to kill her, but could they have accidentally killed her? Absolutely," Tanner said. "We feel like if they weren't interrupted, there would have been an attempt. Would they have been successful? We don't know." ("Cops: 3rd-Graders Aimed to Hurt Teacher," AP, 04.01.2008)

It's hard to say if they really wanted to "hurt" the woman, because eight-year-olds aren't developed enough mentally to even understand the possible outcome of such a plot. Luckily, they stopped hanging children in Georgia a few decades ago, that honor is reserved for 13-and-up.

Was it really over just one episode where a child was punished? This is unknown, but doubtful. It takes ongoing psychological-pressure for a child to act-out in this way. For nine of them to do it suggests that there is much more to this story. The real story here could be about the "fight or flight response," a base-phenomena that is essentially unchallenged.

What's know is that the teacher had experience with children with ADHD (now called "ADD," or "Attention-Deficit Disorder"), as well as mentally-handicapped students. This should have prepared her for this, and her professionalism and behavior towards the children should be thoroughly-examined. It's likely that she caused a great deal of anxiety in her students over a protracted period-of-time:

All organisms have been given a fight or flight response mechanism that protects and preserves them. It is an adaptive function placed in us for the sole purpose of self-preservation. Anxiety, in a sense is an ally. When we experience a danger or a threat, the fight or flight response kicks in, adrenaline and other chemicals are activated and physical symptoms occur, rapid heart rate, palpitations, increase in blood pressure, etc. For most people these debilitating symptoms taper off and the body is restored back to it’s normal state. However, for some individuals, the adrenaline is not metabolized as easily and it may linger in the body longer. Hence, we need to look at anxiety as a physiological condition that needs behavioral adjusting, as opposed to a psychiatric illness. ("What is the Fight or Flight Response Mechanism?" Anxiety and Disorder Center of Los Angeles, updated January, 2007)

When you apply stress, strain, or pressure to any organism, it will eventually lash-out at the source. The more unnatural among us become neurotic. Did the educator abuse her authority? It's a question worth asking, but will it be asked in Bible-belt Georgia? That's unlikely, but perhaps we're learning. The cops appear to be using their heads here. After all, educators are no longer allowed carte blanche regarding corporal punishment any more.

You don't have to be a corporate CEO, a congressional representative like Mark Foley (GOP), a military officer, a boss, or even the president, to abuse authority. We shouldn't be so quick to blame the kids, they might be reacting in a very natural response to long-term emotional abuse. Being a teacher doesn't automatically make one a saint. But none of this matters, only the demands of the marketplace do. Now look busy, there's work to be done, and money to be made...just not by you.

Babies with guns: http://www.ilxor.com/ILX/ThreadSelectedControllerServlet?boardid=60&threadid=4829

"What is the Fight or Flight Response Mechanism?" Anxiety and Disorder Center of Los Angeles, updated January, 2007: http://www.panicla.com/pages/wi_anx.html

"Cops: 3rd-Graders Aimed to Hurt Teacher," AP, 04.01.2008:
http://enews.earthlink.net/article/nat?guid=20080401/47f1c150_3421_13345200804011960677787

04.02.2008 postscript: "The district attorney is seeking juvenile charges of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault against an 8-year-old boy and two girls, ages 9 and 10. The girls are also charged with bringing weapons to school." http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080402/ap_on_re_us/children_s_plot