Wise Words From a Decent Man

Running to School While Black

I was born with a target on my back & chest. The chances of me being arrested or murdered by a police officer are very high. This is true for every other Black boy and Black man. Will we ever live in a time when police aren’t treating Black men as  animals they have to shoot down or cage, as if we need to be tamed?

On Friday, November 7, 2014, I woke up excited to interact with my high school students (as I do everyday). On Tuesday through Thursday, classes start at 8:30am (arrival window is 8:00-8:25). On Monday and Friday, classes start at 10:30(arrival window is 10:00-10:25). We are very strict with our late policy. If students are a minute late they are sent home. However, we make exceptions. Apparently, our school is not like many other high schools.

When students are “running” late they run down the street to make it on time. Me and a few other staff members stand outside welcoming students every morning and celebrate them getting to school on time as if they won the 400m race in the Penn Relays.

On Friday morning, myself and another staff member were taking our daily breakfast run to the store across the street as we noticed one of our students running as if a cheetah was chasing him. He sprinted pass me and ran into the school building.

It wasn’t a cheetah chasing him. It was police officers. Three police cars pulled up to the school seconds after he went into the building. One of the cars had a female student in the back of the car. I immediately asked the officer why one of my students was in the car. The officer ignored my question and ran into the school with 3 other officers. At this time, about 7 other police cars pulled up in front of the building along with a patty wagon. All of the officers got of their vehicles and ran into the school. You would think one of the officers called for back up, telling other officers that a black boy was running with a gun. Did they?!

At this point, I didn’t want breakfast. I ran back into the school to see what was going on and there were 20 police officers running rampant through the school like escaped zoo monkeys; looking for a student who was running to school. I called the Director of Student Life to tell him what was happening and he asked me to bring the officers to his office because the student was with him.

I lead three of the police officers to the directors office and while walking to the office, I told the officers that the student was relaxed and they could just walk in calmly. That fell on deaf ears. The officers barged in and slammed the student on the director’s desk and quickly put him in cuffs. The director and I immediately yelled at the officers telling the to ease up and relax. Of course they didn’t.

The officers escorted the student out of the office and up the hallway. I assumed that they were walking to the elevator but they stopped, telling him never to run from police, pressed him up against the wall and searched him. The director and I tried to explain our late policy and that we have students who run to school when they’re late. They ignored us. While being searched, the student was yelling “I don’t got nothing!! I don’t got nothing! Please don’t put nothing on me!!” After searching him, (finding nothing) they escorted him out of the building and into the back a police car. Strangely, when the put him into the car they let the other student who was being held out of the car. She hugged me and repeatedly said “I just want to be in school!!” I walked her to her case manager and walked down to my office.

Once I got to my desk, I broke down and cried. Seeing all of that felt unreal. The police criminalized those students because they were Black. The police were suspicious of the student who ran into the building, because he was Black. These two students did nothing wrong and all they wanted to do was get to school on time.

I called the student a few hours later and to my surprise he answered the phone. He told me he was okay and wanted to apologize for bringing so much commotion into the school. I immediately explained that the whole police district owed him and the school an apologize for the way they acted.

I’m worried that because he’s had so many negative interactions with police officers that he feels like a criminal no matter what he does (because he’s a Black male), ESPECIALLY IF HE’S RUNNING TO SCHOOL.

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