Where are the Facts?

Imagine walking down the hallway of your local high school and seeing projects and pictures made by students exhibiting false claims and condemning your profession. How would that make you feel? Blue Lives Matter recently reported on a disturbing display in a Michigan high school where posters made by students cover the walls showing images of police brutality. These were part of a final assignment based on the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. When addressing the matter, the school Superintendent, Renae Galsterer, claims that the intent was not disrespect. On the contrary, as an educator you know exactly what you are doing when you create an assignment and present it to your students. You are fully aware of the consequences of your classroom actions.

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A brief refresher. According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law, the Fourth Amendment, “originally enforced the notion that “each man’s home is his castle,” secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government. It protects against arbitrary arrests, and is the basis of the law regarding search warrantsstop-and-frisk, safety inspections, wiretaps, and other forms of surveillance, as well as being central to many other criminal law topics and to privacy law.” Regarding the Fifth Amendment, it “creates a number of rights relevant to both criminal and civil legal proceedings.

In criminal cases, the Fifth Amendment guarantees the right to a grand jury, forbids “double jeopardy,” and protects against self-incrimination.  It also requires that “due process of law” be part of any proceeding that denies a citizen “life, liberty or property” and requires the government to compensate citizens when it takes private property for public use.”

The evidence is clear. The posters hanging on the walls tell the story of the perception of law enforcement by these students. It is an unfortunate reality and one that needs to change.

In an interview with the local news station WNEM, the Superintendent states,Our teachers and students have a deep respect for all law enforcement officers and their duty. This class actually creates a great deal of interest for our students to pursue careers in law enforcement.”

There is plenty wrong with this statement. When teaching, you walk the line of balance and bias. There is clearly no balance happening here, but plenty of bias. Where are the facts? A political agenda is quite apparent in this situation and one loaded with an anti-police narrative. It’s time to change that.

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The superintendent asserts that,Certainly there was no ill intent or disrespect meant by these posters. I sincerely apologize for any message of disrespect or misinformation that was interpreted by the photos or my students’ projects.”

Here’s the problem. We have come to a critical point in America where we must stop providing empty apologies. Law enforcement serves communities and does so willingly. They work in schools with the goal to protect and this is the treatment they receive? This is a perfect example of an apology that is completely hollow.

The law enforcement profession faces enough challenges without having to consider students’ lack of education and respect for police. This example from Michigan is telling another story. This is something much deeper than an assignment gone bad just because they were caught.

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When educators and the school system believe it is acceptable to allow students to do projects with incorrect information based on opinion only and encourage projects that perpetuate a cycle of disrespect and hate, then we have a problem.

What about facts?

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Contacts Between Police and the Public, 2015 report says, “the portion of U.S. residents age 16 or older who had experienced contact with the police in the preceding 12 months declined from 26% in 2011 to 21% in 2015, a drop in more than 9 million people (from 62.9 million to 53.5 million).” That’s something to report. The DOJ also states that, “The vast majority (83%) of residents were satisfied with the police response during their most recent contact and felt that police responded promptly (83%) and behaved properly (89%). More than half (59%) indicated that police improved the situation.” Perhaps the lesson plan needs corrections?

The superintendent speaks about intent in the comments made to the local news. The intent is obvious. Not teaching facts and presenting both sides is not educating. Using students as pawns in this political game is unfair. And what about the police? Why should they have to stand by and watch this? No one, regardless of their profession, would be comfortable walking through the halls of a school with negative images of their job plastered on the walls. Presenting students false information about law enforcement needs to stop. How about that dialogue? Where are the facts? Are those hanging on the walls of this high school? No profession is perfect. No one deserves to be the subject of ridicule and disrespect and that includes law enforcement. The police who willingly serve our communities deserve better treatment.

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Lauren E. ForcucciPh.D. is an educator, writer, and proud American. Daughter of an immigrant, granddaughter of a veteran, friend and supporter of active-duty military, veterans, and police. Lauren has worked in higher-education teaching political science, international relations and criminal justice. Her doctoral research is in terrorism and her dissertation is titled Cyber-Jihad: Waging Virtual Terror to Create an Online Caliphate. Lauren is the owner of Limitless Edu Consulting.