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Justice for Paris Moore!

Report from the front

The first use of school resource officers was in 1953 in Flint, Michigan, and was not widely discussed or utilized until 15 years later in 1968 when Fresno, California initiated a program to have plainclothes police officers in elementary schools in an attempt to repair its image with younger people. Over the last fifty-plus years, the purpose of these officers shifted from one of purported mentorship and education to law enforcement and purported crime prevention. By 2018, 58 percent of schools had a police presence in their schools compared to one percent in 1975. In the last 22 years, the federal government has given directly one billion dollars to fund this program, and another 14 billion for "community policing" has been authorized for police in schools. The string of mass school shootings over the last two decades has also been used to justify the state’s perpetuation of the right-wing myth of a good guy with a gun as the solution for this ongoing crisis in the United States. The evidence does not support that officers in schools deter school shootings, and rarely have they been successful in stopping active shooter incidents. Instead, the primary role they have served is to criminalize youthful indiscretions with more arrests and expulsions, disproportionately targeting students of color and students with learning disabilities. Having police in schools also has provided another place for the potential harm of police violence to exist in our society. One such incident was brought to our attention by Tempest reader Danelle, who provides an update on a disturbing incident of police violence in a Rockford, Illinois public high school last year.

In September, 2021, Paris Moore, then a 14-year-old first year student at Auburn High School in Rockford, Illinois was body-slammed head-first by Bradley Lauer, a school resource officer for walking in the hallway during class. The officer handcuffed Paris while he was unconscious on the ground and searched him. Paramedics arrived but the school sent them away, calling the family to come to pick him up. He was then taken to the hospital by his grandmother, where they found he had a skull fracture. The school initially told his family that he had tripped and fallen. The school, the Rockford Police Department, and the city of Rockford have covered up this incident for the past year.

Two months after the incident, when the family hired an attorney, the Rockford P.D. pressed charges against the child in retaliation. Standing with the Rockford P.D., Democrat mayor Tom McNamara recently made disgusting remarks accusing the family of releasing only partial information to inflame the public. Earlier this month, a Chicago-based law firm filed a federal civil rights suit on behalf of Paris and his family against the Rockford Public Schools. They have also called on the school to suspend Lauer pending an investigation and to reconsider the School Resource Officer Program.

There have also been calls for the firing of then-assistant-principal Scott Dimke following the release of a video that shows Dimke chasing Paris through the hallway and grabbing him multiple times. This appears not to be an isolated incident for Dimke, who has, since the release of the video, faced allegations from other Black students of targeted harassment. These students also reported being grabbed by the former assistant principal. Since the incident, Dimke has been moved to Lincoln Middle School where he is also the assistant principal. It has been reported that he has been absent from Lincoln Middle School since the story broke on October 8.

Community members have been flooding recent school board meetings demanding both accountability for this specific incident and the removal of police from Rockland schools. The school board has been dishonest, claiming that people have only provided complaints and offered no solutions, despite the fact that the community has given them solutions/demands of “taking police out of our public schools and using the money they pay the police to instead pay paraprofessionals a living wage so they could truly invest in giving the care and attention needed in these situations where there is opportunity to de-escalate.” One board member made an insensitive remark about how he felt he was fighting “with a hand tied behind his back” and expressed that he felt fine hiding behind the idea that he held classified information that “told the whole story.” The school board has shown a lack of compassion for Paris, who has to live with the repercussions of this police violence for the rest of his life.

School should be a safe place for kids to learn and socialize with each other. It should not be a place where Paris or any other child has to worry about being targeted by the staff, who are supposed to be at the school to keep them safe.

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Danelle View All

Danelle is a non-binary socialist who lives in Rockford, IL.