Another way for cops to deal with unruly kids

This happened in Washington Monday:

On Monday afternoon, D.C. police officers broke up two groups of fighting teenagers. A few minutes later, a female officer approached the lingering crowd and told the teens to disperse.

That’s when Aaliyah Taylor, a 17-year-old senior at Ballou High School, walked up to the officer and started playing “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” on her phone. Then she did the Nae Nae dance.

The officer, according to Taylor, laughed and said she had far better dance moves than that.

What happened from there on the 200 block of K Street SW was a rather impressive dance-off between the police officer and the teen, and an example of positive community policing at a time when national attention is focused on discriminatory and abusive police tactics. The onlooking teens caught the dance battle on their cell phones while a song by rapper Dlow played in the background….

45 thoughts on “Another way for cops to deal with unruly kids

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, by the way, I have a small request that I would appreciate y’all spreading as widely as you can:

    America, if you’re shooting video of something that is likely to make news, please, please, turn your phone so that you’re holding it horizontally. (There are rare cases in which a vertical image is useful, but 99 percent of the time, that’s not the case.)

    There are few things more frustrating than trying to get information from a clip that is only showing me half of the scene that it could be showing me, with wasted information at the top and bottom of the image.

    Of all the things we’ve had to get used to with news content being generated more and more by amateurs, this is one of my biggest peeves…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Also, move in a bit so we can see the subjects of your video better. Don’t use your digitital zoom, which is basically just cropping the image with worse resolution — move in.

      Thank you.

      1. Mark Stewart

        Can you imagine what would have happened in the Spring Valley classroom, or worse the North Charleston alley, if the bystander(s) had moved in to get closeup video of the action unfolding?

        I think caution is the better part of valor in these moments of high stress danger. Definitely hold the phone horizontally to record though. And remember sometimes physically or verbally intervening would be better than filming someone’s distress or emergency. But that’s a tough call – to be made in the moment given the circumstances.

        1. Doug Ross

          “I think caution is the better part of valor in these moments of high stress danger. ”

          High stress DANGER? Seriously? Who was in danger at Spring Valley? The girl who got thrown down wasn’t even claiming injury until after she met with her lawyer. There were no weapons drawn and the incident lasted approximately five seconds.

          The hyperbolic reaction to this one event is amazing.

          1. Mark Stewart

            Actually I was thinking of the passerby who took the phone video of the N. Chas officer who shot the guy in the back. Sticking a phone in a cops face, any cop and especially an amped up one, doesn’t exactly seem like a wise move.

            But go ahead and call it “hyperbolic” to suggest that.

            1. Doug Ross

              To believe it was dangerous for the person taking the video, you’d have to start with the assumption that cops are going to start firing their weapons at random people on the street standing 30 yards away.

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              When bullets are flying, yeah, it’s a good call to hang back.

              Interesting idea — could the average person accomplish more by intervening than by shooting video? Actually, in these two cases, I think the people who shot the video accomplished more than they could have by intervening.

              In the North Charleston case, you’d have been interfering with a cop who apparently was in the process of committing first-degree murder. Not a good time to get in his way, however safe Doug thinks it is. Besides, he’s armed and you’re not, so you’re not going to accomplish much. Or say you ARE armed — still not a good call to shoot a cop. The only way to save Walter Scott’s life would be to shoot the cop BEFORE he shot Scott. Try talking your way out of that one.

              In the other case, intervening just gets you arrested, as happened with the girl who tried to stick up for the girl thrown across the room…

              1. Bryan Caskey

                Agree. What are you supposed to do unless you do a Gomer Pyle citizen’s arrest.

                By the by, a friend of mine and his wife are doing a couples’ Halloween costume for a party tonight. She’s dressing up as an injured schoolgirl and he’s dressing up as a Sheriff’s Deputy. Too soon? I need a ruling from the brain-trust.

                Have a safe weekend, y’all.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Well, my parents are flood victims (lost their first floor, displaced from their home) and my dad’s going to a party tonight dressed as Noah.

                    He’s taking it well.

            1. Doug Ross

              Yeah. they looked terrified. You should search “Worldstar fights” on Youtube and watch what kids are doing in classrooms around the country. You’d never let your own kids near a high school again. The kids filming and watching the fights are cheering the combatants on. It’s become so popular that while filming the fights, the kids yell “Worldstar!!!” because they know it will end up on its Youtube channel.

        2. Mark Stewart

          I wasn’t thinking of intervening in situations involving cops. That’s just silly to physically intervene – and verbally probably isn’t an ounce of brains better. Getting anywhere near a cop with a camera recording doesn’t ever seem wise; even if later on it might be more helpful for other. Just not worth the risk to oneself.

          However, I have seen other cases – arguments, fights, accidents – when people stand around taking pics. There may be some value to that, but sometimes it’s better to be an active good samaritan and help someone. That was my point.

  2. Matt Bohn

    It took me many years, but I found tactics like the one In the story to be the best way to engage and manage unruly students. There are always some that are beyond engaging, but in twenty three years in a public school classroom (eight in the Corridor of Shame,) there have only been a few dozen out of several thousand students who were beyond reaching. You just can’t order and demand with many teens and expect respectful cooperation. This is how you reach them and diffuse tense situations. Most students would not say no to a teacher nae-naeing their way over to ask them to put the phone away during the lesson. No need to call an admin and the situation is over. Just my opinion based on my own experiences.

    1. Barry

      One of my wife’s teacher friends attended that walk out. She said there was a good mix of students and a lot of them were very upset the officer was fired.

      I won’t share what else she told me but the entire episode ( situation with the officerand the incident) was a mess.

  3. Mark Stewart

    The entire situation was certainly a mess from the get go.

    I would infer that the firings, or at least departures, are not over yet. While expulsion for the student is the most inappropriate punishment conceivable, it would be wrong if she does not face some consequence for her part in this. But the teacher and administrator have a lot of explaining to do (at the very least).

    1. Doug Ross

      We won’t be hearing any explanation. Richland 2 is in full gag order mode, even for teachers at other schools. At least that’s what a husband of a teacher at an elementary school told me.

      1. Norm Ivey

        We are not on a gag order. We’ve been asked to be discrete in our conversations. Any employer would do the same.

        1. Doug Ross

          Well, others have got a different message. The guy I talked to said his wife said she was told to not even speak about it with her husband.

          We know it’s all because of the fear of lawsuits – which has been a consistent fear for a long time in public education.

          It’s too bad the teacher and administrator are not allowed to offer their version of events to the public. It might help alleviate all the speculation and hyperbole.

        2. Barry

          My wife’s principal was clear with his teachers last week at their meeting.

          They were told to keep their opinions to themselves.

    2. Bart

      “While expulsion for the student is the most inappropriate punishment conceivable, it would be wrong if she does not face some consequence for her part in this.”

      What would you consider as the appropriate punishment or consequence she should face for her part? Time out sitting in the corner of the classroom? Take her cell phone away during class hours? A few hours with the student counselor? Exactly what should be the consequences for her actions? She is already enjoying martyr status as the victim of the officer’s overreaction. Now she is wearing a cast on her arm? Was her arm broken during the incident? Has this been medically proven to be a result of the confrontation? Is it a fact that she is indeed not an orphan but is living in foster care? This was reported in the Daily Kos as being a fact supported by her attorney. Her mother and grandmother are still alive, where are they in her life?

      The officer has faced one of his many coming consequences when he was fired but that won’t be the end of it for him. Lawsuits; no possible employment as a law enforcement officer in the future; and a ruined reputation with the racist label permanently attached to him and his name. A mature resource officer would have walked away without getting into a physical confrontation with a seated student. Or, he could have simply grabbed the front of the desk and pulled it and her out of the classroom and left her sitting in the hall. I agree he should have been fired for his actions.

      When the teacher and administrator resorted to bringing the resource officer into the classroom, apparently they believed the situation was already beyond their control. Lighted match, meet open can of gasoline.

      1. Doug Ross

        Bart – apparently you didn’t know that each student wears a badge with a variety of symbols that indicate all of his/her personal issues/identity tags. Each symbol requires a different approach when it comes to expectations of basic behavior in the classroom. A bi-racial, vegan, transgender, middle class, atheist with dyslexia has a different level of behavior expectation than a paleo, Asian, asexual, upper class, Buddhist with mild social anxiety. Each teacher is expected to review each student’s current status every day and devise individual training and punishment parameters. This should normally only take 35-40 minutes out of each 45 minute class.

      2. Doug Ross

        And let’s not forget that each student gets a student handbook that covers the cellphone policy. I’m sure when my son when to SV, there was a form to be signed by the student and parent showing they had read the policy.

        Here is the specific policy for high school students from the Richland 2 Student Handbook:

        High school
        High school students may use ECDs such as cellular
        phones, electronic pagers or any other communications
        devices before and after school, during their lunch
        break, within “free zones” (as determined by the
        principal) and as deemed appropriate by the teacher
        and approved by the principal for educational and/or
        instructional purposes only. Any other use of wireless
        communications is considered misuse and violations
        may result in disciplinary action.
        • First offense – warning/confiscate device and return
        to student at the end of the school day
        • Second offense – confiscate device/return to
        parent/legal guardian
        • Third offense – confiscate device/return device to parent/legal guardian and privilege to have device is revoked for the remainder of the school year
        • Fourth offense – confiscate device/return at the end
        of the school year
        Violation of this policy shall result in discipline as
        outlined in the district’s code of conduct (Policy JICDA/

        That seems pretty clear. She knew that using a cellphone in the classroom was prohibited and refused to accept the consequences for her behavior. If it was her first offense, all it would have cost her was the use of the phone until the end of the day. That’s hardly excessive by any stretch. Maybe this wasn’t the first offense?

        1. Mark Stewart

          Seems pretty clear that the “real” problem was the decision-making of the adults in the room.

            1. Doug Ross

              Does that include ignoring the policies when a student decides she doesn’t want to follow them?

              The only wrong decision by an adult was the decision by the SRO to get too physical with the girl. Up until that point it was all on her 100%. Doesn’t matter what her “backstory” is.

              1. Mark Stewart

                Doug, per your previous post:

                • First offense – warning/confiscate device and return
                to student at the end of the school day
                • Second offense – confiscate device/return to
                parent/legal guardian
                • Third offense – confiscate device/return device to parent/legal guardian and privilege to have device is revoked for the remainder of the school year
                • Fourth offense – confiscate device/return at the end
                of the school year
                Violation of this policy shall result in discipline as
                outlined in the district’s code of conduct.

                I don’t see where discipline turns into law enforcement being called in to escalate the situation as if criminal. You don’t let the kid “win” by de-escalating, you maintain control and the respect for authority. The teacher and admin didn’t do that, they demanded compliance. That is an entirely different can of worms they (short-sightedly) chose to break open.

                1. Barry

                  There is a video online now of a teacher “confiscating” a phone to turn it in to an administrator. The teacher was body slammed by the student and suffered injuries.

                  The teacher was 62 years old.

                  As a veteran (MALE) teacher at a large Richland 2 high school told me on Sunday – “You don’t ever touch a student’s phone unless you want a serious argument or even a fight. I won’t do it. I just let them do what they want and if they don’t get the information I am presenting, they can turn it in late. I am not messing with a phone these days.”

                2. Doug Ross

                  Barry – I’d say the phrase “the inmates are running the asylum” would fit the current public education model. The inmates are the parents, students, and lawyers.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold the phone!

                    (See what I did there?)

                    How did we jump into tossing the lawyers into things?

                3. Doug Ross

                  The threat of lawsuits has become a tool that parents use all too frequently. Todd Rutherford is going to make things miserable for Richland 2 (and thus for taxpayers). Resources devoted to dealing with lawsuits are resources that are taken away from the classroom. Richland 2 should not be sued, the officer should be.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    I know, I know. I was half-kidding. Mostly I was going for the cheap pun.

                    But on a serious note, I’m not sure that Richland 2 has a horrible legal position. What’s the student’s cause of action against Richland 2? I’m sure the school district is essentially going to say, “Hey look, we called in the SRO, but it wasn’t foreseeable that he was going to do that.”

                    Also there’s the nature of the damages. What are the student’s actual damages? Emotional damages? Gimme a break. A few soft tissue injuries aren’t much in the grand scheme of things.

                    Finally, looking at it from the point of view of how a jury might lean on an emotional level, I’m not sure that a Richland County jury (if it gets to that) would reward this student with a large verdict, if they feel she had a hand in creating the situation that eventually came to the use of violence. Obviously, that’s just my speculation, but any good defense lawyer for the district is going to make sure that the jurors know about every bad thing this student ever did. The same goes for the police officer as well, so this cuts both ways.

                    Like you said though, if a suit were planned, I think the student would have a more direct cause of action against the RCSD rather than Richland 2. But that’s just me thinking out loud.

                4. Doug Ross

                  A fundraiser set up by Rutherford for the girl has already raised over $43K as of yesterday. I’m sure that money will be well spent.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Well, shucks. She don’ need no fancypants lawyerin’ to hep her. She already been made good.

  4. Doug Ross

    She changed the level of engagement by not following the policy she was aware of. It then became a behavior issue, not a cellphone issue. No different than a guy who gets belligerent with a cop over a speeing ticket. She could have ended it in five seconds by turning over the phone. She could have ended it two more times by following the direction of her teacher and administrator to leave the room.

  5. Doug Ross

    Which behaviors would you have supported had your own child been in that desk? Using the phone? Defying the teacher? Defying the administrator? Defying the SRO?

    I guess my kids were taught differently. The phone wouldn’t have come out in the first place.

    1. Barry


      We (I am in my mid 40s) are too old fashioned for the parents these days.

      My won called the SVHS school student “an idiot” when I first informed him about the incident. He’s in 9th grade. He knows the deal. If he gets a 1st warning from a teacher about his cell phone, I will take it for him for the rest of the school year. There will be no 2nd warning.

      As a result, he only takes his cell phone out at lunchtime and after school.

      But parents these days are a different breed – and as a result, their children are going to do what they want to do – when they want to do it and society will have to adjust to them.

      1. Doug Ross

        That’s why I am for school vouchers for the worst performing districts. The only kids who truly have a chance are those who actually WANT to succeed or have parents willing to push them to do it. The rest are doomed to repeat the choices their parents made.

          1. Doug Ross

            Really? I’ve thought about it a lot for more than a decade and I think it would yield the best outcome. You can’t fix those who don’t want to be fixed. We already have data showing that increased spending on terrible districts doesn’t work. Let’s try a lifeboat strategy instead and save those willing to save themselves.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              With all the money being spent on schools, there’s a Titanic/lifeboat analogy somewhere out there.

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