Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Shocking Developments at Greenwich High School

Your scribe has followed with interest the top local news story of the past several days, namely the use of a police taser gun on an 18-year-old senior at the high school.

The student, Victor Hugo Londono, was under a one-week suspension for throwing water balloons as a senior prank. Wow. Pretty serious stuff. Certainly a worthy reason to suspend the malefactor for a full week less than a month from graduation.

When your scribe was in high school, water balloons were an inescapable part of the rites of spring. Walk out a doorway, get doused from above. Swallow your chagrin, put on a smile, and deal with it. And then turn the tables on your oppressor. Faculty members knew better than to get involved with such pranks, just as students knew full well there was no point in running to them for assistance. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and water-balloon training was just another part of the educational experience provided to all students in those halcyon days.

And so, upon reflection, your scribe finds himself faulting the school for issuing such a harsh punishment for such a trivial event. Does the unspeakable Betty Sternberg's code of student conduct now criminalize water balloons? Kinda makes one yearn for the old days, when some right-thinking student might have concocted an indelible-ink balloon and lobbed it in the direction of a particularly unpopular faculty member or administrator. Now that might have called for some form of punishment, not to mention economic reparations; but the lobber would have become an instant hero, and a legend in his or her own time.

Mr. Londono, however, was punished for tossing garden-variety water balloons. The "damage" probably dried within 30 minutes, after which it was basically a case of no harm, no foul. But no - he was publically humiliated and disciplined by the high school administration.

Would that it had all ended there. Alas, it did not. Mr. Londono, in a scene straight out of his namesake's great novel of social injustice, Les Miserables, had the temerity to kick a chair. And that led directly to his being tasered by the "school resource officer", a bureaucratic euphemism for the Greenwich cop who has been assigned to the school full-time since last year.

Tasered in front of his friends. Tasered in front of a crowd of fellow students. Tasered not once, not twice, but three times - in the shoulder, the abdomen, and the thigh. A burly cop against a 140-lb. teenager - was the use of a taser necessary? The cop says yes. Common sense says no.

What kind of message does this incident send to our kids? Play a prank and expect to be taken down by brute force and electroshock in the middle of the student center? Kick a chair and be handcuffed and arrested for breach of the peace? Lord only knows what the students who witnessed this scene must have thought. What kind of message do you read into this, dear reader?

And what kind of judgment did the highly-trained adult police officer show when he tasered an unruly teenager three times? Might he have lost his cool, too? Might he have overreacted?

Your scribe was not a witness to this incident, and so he has no anwers to offer. Only questions.


Update 5/22/08

Your scribe was as shocked as Mr. Londono to read that the latter's bail was set at $50,000. Fifty thousand dollars! One almost never sees a bond set that high in this Town. Here are some examples from today's paper:

11 counts of credit card theft, 11 counts of identity theft, 11 counts of forgery, and a bunch of other charges related to thefts and illegal use of credit cards: $10,000.

Smashing a woman's cell phone, shoving her into a car door, putting her in a headlock and choking off her air supply, and throwing her to the ground: $2,000.

Slamming a woman's car door on her hand, jamming her thumb in the door and breaking her nail while screaming obscenities at her on Greenwich Avenue: no bond at all - just a PTA (promise to appear).

It would seem to any disinterested observer that the Greenwich Police Department has a vendetta going against Mr. Londono. Fifty thousand dollars! Unbelievable!

What do the students at Greenwich High School think? The paper reports sit-ins in the student center where the incident took place, boycotting of classes, tee shirts supporting Mr. Londono, and a lot of emotional distress. One student, Meghan Kerwin, said, "If there is a gun or something, by all means protect us. When it's a water balloon, the circumstances do not call for a Taser."

Go to the head of the class, Meghan. You sure got that one right.


Blogger Sarah Darer Littman said...

I have to say that the "don't Tase me bro" incident made me very glad that my son isn't attending Greenwich High, and rather nervous that daughter is scheduled to be there in only three years time.

May 21, 2008 7:14 PM  
Blogger AnonymousBob said...

One of the problems with tasers is that they are marketed to police and security professionals as being "non-lethal", but in fact they can be very lethal in some circumstances, as various news stories from around the world have borne out, and the circumstances are not always predictable or identifiable. If security people are under the false impression that tasers can't kill people, they may be more apt to use them as something less than a "last resort", and more frequent taser use could mean more injuries and deaths. Personally, I have never heard of anyone dying from a good old-fashioned shoulder or arm lock. If the student had been directly threatening another person with physical harm, then I might be more inclined to let the tasering go, but I'm sure the chairs think nothing at all of the physical affront they "suffered".

Another problem that could arise in relation to taser injuries and death is that if criminals (or even regular people) come to understand that the taser could in fact kill them, there may be increased instances of people defending themselves more aggressively against taser-wielding police and security guards. Human Nature dictates that if I think that what you are about to do to me could kill me, I'm going to go to whatever lengths necessary to defend my life, most especially if I think that *you* are more likely to actually use the weapon because you believe it *won't* hurt me. I can only say that if *anyone* points a taser at me or my family, they had better have health and/or life insurance, because I'm going to treat them as if they were pointing a firearm, but with an overly-itchy trigger-finger. And I wouldn't blame anyone else for doing the same.

May 21, 2008 8:16 PM  
Blogger Barrie said...

What happened to diffusing a situation? Instead of letting it escalate to the point of tasering. In these days of drugs and alcohol and guns on our high school campuses, a water balloon looks very tame indeed. Thanks for sharing.

May 22, 2008 1:18 AM  
Blogger Malicious Intent said...

I have seen to many incidents across the country of folks being tasered and the officials abusing it. Despite poplular belief, a taser can kill.

As far as why this young man was tasered, was flat out wrong. This kid was not caught raping a student, dealing drugs on the corner or vandalizing property. He was punished for being a kid trying to have fun and create some memories from high school to take with him.

I keep saying we should be waving a red flag over our state/country. We scream human rights in this country and demand that our prisoners or suspected terrorists not get water boarded, but we taser an 18 year old 3 times for throwing a water balloon and then *gasp* show emotion when he gets angry for being punished for such a childhood prank.

Honestly, some people need to put their big girl/boy panties on and get a grip. Go find the real bad guys.

Oh wait, that would require hard work, woulndn't it?

May 22, 2008 7:45 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Wow! I guess this post touched a few nerves!

Yes, tasers can be lethal, especially if someone has a medical problem such as a circulatory or heart condition. Anonymous Bob - who are you, by the way? Give me a hint! - has given us a lot to think about.

Sarah, my first reaction was that if I had a kid about to enter the high school I would start looking at private schools PDQ.

Barrie, as usual you are the voice of wisdom and common sense. Yes, the cop and other administrators present should have tried to defuse the situation. Had I been the cop in question, I might have lined up a few more chairs and told the kid to take his best shot at them, too. Then, when everyone had stopped laughing, I would have asked him to accompany me somewhere private and told him that a different kind of cop might have arrested him, but that I merely wanted his solemn assurance that he would behave himself until graduation.

Guess that's why I'm not a cop.

M.I., as usual, you say exactly what's on the scribal mind, and as usual you say it much better than I could.

May 22, 2008 9:48 AM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

common sense Bill? What is that, pray?

May 23, 2008 1:48 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hi, Leigh! Common sense is a vestigial character trait of the human race that is in increasingly short supply in these latter days. It refers to an ability to think and act logically in accordance with commonly-received experience. However, since everyone now seems to be running off in all directions in pursuit of their own solipsistic goals, common experience and by extension common sense are pretty much a thing of the past.

I remember learning a lot of common sense when I lived in England. Do they still have any left over there, one hopes?

May 23, 2008 4:37 PM  
Blogger Malicious Intent said...

Wow real men arrest and taser waterballooning touting trouble makers.

I think the court and polic up there are sniffing to much glue and need to go to detention.

Either that or someone needs to start selling tasers whole sale to the public so they can defend themselves against the police.

This is the kind of crap that starts riots. Can't fix stupid, but ya can punch it.

May 24, 2008 7:42 AM  
Blogger steve on the slow train said...

Mr. Londono had the common sense to take his aggression out on a chair, rather than on one of his fellow humans. For that he is tasered?

Back in the 1970s, in the late lamented Horizon Magazine, there was an article called "The Decline of Common Sense." It began by noting that common sense tells you that the sun revolves around the earth, but that science showed otherwise. But it went on to show that just because common sense was wrong in this instance, that it had a great deal of merit.

I'm afraid your post demonstrates that common sense has declined even further in those days. Thanks for letting the blogosphere know about this travsty of justice. And kudos to Ms. Kerwin and the students supporting Mr. Londondo.

May 26, 2008 11:06 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Steve: Thanks for your comments. My current understanding is that there were four school administrators and three policemen present when this incident took place. Not to mention an unknown number of students, since this took place in the large student center at the crossroads of the school.

I find it disturbing that none of the seven adults, all of whom have had extensive training in dealing with young people, found a way to defuse this situation. Apparently Mr. Londono was making liberal use of the f-word, but so what? Should the adults not be mature enough to know that words can't hurt them, but that Tasers can kill?

The more I learn about this incident--and the details are not being fully provided by the "official" sources--the more I become persuaded that the three police officers did not do their job properly. They could easily have frog-marched the 140-pound youth to a school office; electroshock was way over the top.

May 26, 2008 12:19 PM  
Blogger Barrie said...

Bill, I am bookmarking this page for my spouse to read! Thank you for calling me "the voice of wisdom and common sense"!!! ;)

May 28, 2008 7:47 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hi, Barrie!

Tell your husband I call 'em as I see 'em! :)

May 29, 2008 12:07 PM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Lots of common, very little sense over here. It's all doom and gloom right now in the UK. Check out our news. On second thoughts, don't bother. Even the TV has gone "reality"... Let's stick to the virtual blogworld.

May 30, 2008 4:29 AM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

ps I wonder about the point of the WORD VERIFICATION box. Is this to ensure that you can only have a virtual relationship with a real person?

May 30, 2008 4:31 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Yes, Leigh, that's the whole point. Who wants to have a virtual relationship with an unreal person?

May 30, 2008 12:00 PM  
Blogger Malicious Intent said...

Greetings Scribe! I have returned from the green pastures and wedges. Lots of happy people, lots of money. Got my first report up...but sloppy, but it's a report!
Thanks for the well wishes, they worked!

May 30, 2008 8:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The worst thing is that this kid's life got messed up because ofthe taser! He got rejected from the college he was suppossed to attend just for trying to make his last year as a senior memorable

May 21, 2010 6:45 PM  

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