Sunday, August 1, 2021

Minor criminal charges filed for speaking, kissing


A lawyer representing Desmond Clark, whose son attends Vernon Hills High School in the suburbs north of Chicago, has charged the Blue Ribbon school with making racist remarks against his son and filing trumped-up charges against him and his wife, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Former tight end Desmond Clark, who helped the Bears get to the Super Bowl in 2006, and his wife are free on bond after turning themselves in and being processed by police. They’re scheduled to appear in court on Oct 2 to answer charges of disorderly conduct. Those charges, Mr Clark says on his Facebook page, stem from an outburst he made on Aug 29 at the school in response to several years of racist comments directed at his son, who attends the high school.

Mr Clark has been known for “giving back” to the high school football communities throughout his retirement. His Twitter feed is filled with comments like this one:

Details aren’t available in the media as to exactly what happened, but Mr Clark re-tweeted a post from the Chicago Daily Herald that said racism was behind the charges:

Plus, the Daily Herald reported that a Facebook post shared by the Fox-32 station, made by Mr Clark, alleged the following instances of racism by people at the school:

  • In 2012, racial slur was aimed at his son.
  • In 2013, his son was told by a student his family “hangs from trees.”
  • In 2014 his son was picked out of a crowd and asked his purpose for being on campus after hours.
  • In 2015, his wife was the target of a racial slur and provoked into a fight.
  • And last Saturday, his son was called a criminal.

Vernon Hills High School opened in the 1999-2000 school year for freshmen and in 2000-01 for all years. The school consistently scores above state averages in reading, math, and science, and gets very high marks from parents, on average.

Isolated instances of racism, though, if they occurred, do not speak well of the school. Mr Clark became emotional as he was exiting the police station to talk with reporters about what had happened. The Daily Herald noted that some people at the school were scared of Mr Clark, and I, for one, side with Mr Clark on this one. My rationale is that if a white person got upset and spoke his mind, it would not evoke the same fear; if a former Bears tight end does the same thing, it does. That’s racism and is unacceptable on the part of school officials or the police.

On the involvement of police in the schools

We are on the record as opposing the involvement of police in situations that might be good learning opportunities, in cases where a simple apology would be more appropriate, in discipline action, or in squelching the free speech of citizens addressing grievances against school officials.

We pointed out the absence of democracy at a meeting about school closure in Chicago, a meeting about the Common Core in Baltimore County, Md., and now this, as criminal charges are filed against someone who spoke out against what was allegedly racist remarks made at a school about his son and wife.

Police come into the school entirely too often, and if they’re not required—as appears to be the case here—the matter is a grave one indeed. Police have more important things to do than deal with school matters.

For example, the police were brought in when a middle school boy kissed a girl on a dare from a friend. A 13-year-old boy allegedly kissed a 14-year-old girl during school hours at Pikesville Middle School in Baltimore County. The boy faces a second-degree assault charge as a juvenile.

You might at first think this is a ridiculous charge, but we’re talking about 14-year-olds, who understand boundaries, and from the skimpy reporting I could find on this case, many details have been left out. Schools aren’t allowed to release details about incidents like this, so sketchy reporting is to be expected and will never be made more complete.

My guess about what happened is that the boy may have been harassing the girl in the past and the kiss, clearly unwanted and allegedly open-mouth, accompanied by grabbing of her shirt around her waist, was just the straw that broke the camel’s back and led school officials to bring in the police.

The boy was charged as a juvenile, so his record will be expunged of this incident when he turns 18, if he is found guilty of the juvenile second-degree assault charge. The charges and any conviction will still be available to law enforcement personnel and may complicate any future sentencing of this boy, if this violent behavior toward women continues. But one must be careful not to make judgments against a school for actions that seem over the top when the school can’t defend itself.

Should police be brought in to squelch complaints against school officials or the running of the school when those complaints are made out of turn or with a loud voice?

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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