My mom sent me some of his columns in a packet of clippings a while back, and I just found one of them that I hadn't read before, languishing in the black hole of my room.
Here's the link, and here's the text if you don't want to click.
Posted on Fri, Apr. 29, 2005
LEONARD PITTS JR./COMMENTARY
Girl's tantrum paints picture of failing home
Put the handcuffs aside. We'll get back to them in a minute.
Frankly, there's something else on that video that troubles me almost as much. And if you're saying to yourself, "What video?" well . . . welcome home. How are things in the rain forest?
Here in the States, everybody's talking about a much-televised video -- shot in March but made public last week -- of a 5-year-old in St. Petersburg being taken into custody by police officers after throwing a tantrum at school.
Ja'eisha Scott cries out as her arms are pinioned behind her.
As I said, we'll get to that. For now, let's talk about what the half-hour video shows in the moments before police arrive.
I've seen temper tantrums before -- I've got five kids -- but this one was different. Not because the child seemed out of control but, rather, because she seemed so very much in control.
This wasn't stomping and shouting and throwing a fit. This was walking over to a shelf and sweeping items off it. Walking to a wall and snatching photos down. Walking across the room to pick things up and break them. Walking back and forth, in no apparent hurry, methodically wrecking the room with the calm deliberateness of someone who knows you can't do a thing to stop her. And then punching at the hapless administrator who kept telling her this behavior was "unacceptable."
Beg pardon, but am I the only benighted member of the old school who wanted to spank that child's backside?
Not "beat." Not "abuse." But spank? Definitely.
Granted, I don't know anything about this girl. Maybe she has emotional problems. Maybe she's been mistreated. Maybe there are mitigating factors. In which case, I'll be the first to admit I'm wrong.
But assuming I'm not, assuming Ja'eisha is what she appears -- a brat in a snit -- you have to ask yourself if anybody has ever laid down the law to her, said no and made it stick, socialized her. It's a job, I hasten to add, that begins not with schools but with parents.
Of course, no one seems to be doing the job these days, so tremulous are we about bruising fragile self-esteem.
Small wonder we wind up in a place where adults are helpless before the furies of children.
What happened in St. Pete is but the most widely publicized episode in what seems a mini-epidemic. Last year, a kindergartner in St. Louis was handcuffed for disruptive behavior. Last week, a 7-year-old in Bethlehem, W. Va., wound up wearing jailhouse bracelets for much the same reason.
Can it be just coincidence that we're also seeing a not-so-mini epidemic of parents defending and rationalizing the misbehavior of their little terrors? I'm thinking of the parents in Kansas who harassed a teacher for flunking kids who cheated on a project. Of the mother in greater Chicago who dismissed her daughter's part in a mob assault as something that just "got out of hand." Of the mother in New Orleans who blamed the school -- a school with security guards and metal detectors -- after her son and another boy shot each other.
And I'm thinking of Ja'eisha's mother, Inga Akins, saying on television that her daughter's misbehavior stemmed from the fact that she doesn't get along with "Miss D" -- presumably assistant principal Nicole Dibenedetto, seen in the video deflecting the child's punches. Beg pardon again, but . . . who cares? How does the fact that a 5-year-old doesn't like somebody justify her behaving like a hellion?
Akins has a lawyer who is talking lawsuit. Fine. The police overreacted. You don't handcuff 5-year-olds. But also, you shouldn't feel that you have to.
So I hope mom doesn't do what we too often do when our kids misbehave these days. Make it not their fault. Tell them they are victims. Spare them the burden of onus.
I hope that between media interviews, Akins is getting her child straight. Otherwise, I can promise you one thing:
Someday, you'll see Ja'eisha in handcuffs again.
In this article, he touches upon something that's been very disturbing for me, and for many people, I'm sure. I'm all for political correctness, I'm all for making sure kids feel special and wanted. However, if they learn that they can never do anything wrong, and that they're always the victim, and every institution has it in for them, the nation will be full of murderers and rapists and drug dealers (even more so than it is now) and they will always get off the charges with, "It wasn't my fault! No one told me it was wrong! I don't get along with people, and I led a very hard childhood."
Well, guess what? All of us have problems. Nobody had an absolutely perfect childhood. It may seem like they did, but you don't know them, and they don't know you, so TAKE SOME GODDAMN RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN DAMN SELF.
I am a procrastinator, lazy, and a tad selfish. I actually had a very good childhood, up until I was about 13. I was loved and still am loved, I wanted for nothing, my family was always very supportive of me. But I'm not perfect. And that's no one's fault but my own.