For police officers assigned to middle and high schools in the Akron Public Schools, the hallways are a different kind of beat, often requiring careful judgment. In providing necessary security, officers interact, as they should, with students. Yet they must remember that it is up to school officials to handle discipline.
From that perspective, an unfortunate incident at Jennings Middle School in October bears close scrutiny, police officials and school administrators re-examining what has been, overall, a successful, workable arrangement to ensure a safe environment for students to pursue their studies.
As captured on video, Officer Jon Morgan rushes Tamika Williams, then 13, in a hallway, grabbing her left arm, spinning her around and pushing her against a locker. The slightly built girl, who does not appear to resist, sustained a broken bone in her upper arm. The incident remains under investigation, with Morgan to be transferred, Williams’ mother having filed an excessive-force complaint in early November. Williams, who was never charged, received a transfer to another school.
Paul Hlynsky, the police union president, correctly cautions that final conclusions should not be drawn until the investigation is complete. Morgan’s incident report does indicate unruly behavior by Williams, a disciplinary transfer from another school. The report cites cursing and pulling papers off the walls. The officer also said Williams confronted him with a “chest bump.”
That said, her behavior does not appear to have threatened anyone, a point at which police intervention should take place. In any case, a broken arm hardly fits into the category of a reasonable, or acceptable, outcome. As David James, the Akron superintendent, emphasized, police officers are told their role is to provide security.
The incident and resulting injury raise serious questions about how this police officer exercised judgment. Hallways, after all, aren’t the streets. What’s needed is a review that ensures police officers and school officials continue working together to ensure safe, productive schools.