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Nightmare in St. Petersburg! (the one in Florida)
Coming soon to a school near you?

Stroppy child, no defenceRight : "This is your mess to clean up. We need you to stop. You may not do this," assistant principal Nicole Dibenedetto patiently but firmly tells a 5-year-old having a destructive tantrum.

picture from ABC Action News

On March 14th 2005, a primary school teacher started her camcorder, intending to tape herself in class so that she could evaluate her own performance. What she actually captured was a 5-year-old girl indulging in a half-hour tantrum.
   The kid started making a mess of the classroom and another teacher and the assistant principal were summoned to help Christina Ottersbach, the teacher. The other children were removed from the scene of the tantrum. All the assistant principal, Nicole Dibenedetto, could do then was talk patiently to Ja'eisha Scott and tell her to stop her bad behaviour.
   Eventually, the child calmed down and made some sort of show of clearing up the mess that she had made. Then she refused to leave the classroom. After some persuasion, she was taken to Ms Dibenedetto's office, where she became violent again. The teacher's video shows the child rampaging round the office, pulling papers off the wall, swinging punches at Ms Dibenedetto and climbing onto a table.
   As teachers are no longer allowed to touch children; allegedly for the child's protection but usually to spare the teacher the ordeal that follows malicious accusations of abuse; all that the assistant principal could do to deal with the out-of-control 5-year-old was call the police. The video sequence ends with the child being handcuffed as the only legal method of restraint.

Some common sense in St. Petersburg

Most of the thinking people in St. Petersburg area seem to be on the side of the school's staff and the local police.
   Dr. Ron Stone, the local school superintendent, said: "There are times when you have to physically restrain the child or contain the child in a situation like that. And we think she did that appropriately, based on the circumstances."
   School psychologist Dr. Tracy Schatzberg also felt that things had got to the point where the school staff had no course of action left but calling the police. She said: "I think she's (Assistant Principal Dibenedetto) doing a good job of staying calm and redirecting the little girl. She really only puts her hands on the little girl when she gets onto the table and is in jeopardy of getting hurt."
   Dr. Schatzberg added: "I think at a certain point, if we've given her (the child in a tantrum) this long and we know that she's not de-escalating and we're confident that we can't help her – which it looks like they tried to do – it seems like calling police is the last resort."
   Sgt. Laura Regan of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, who was forced to handcuff another primary school girl to keep her from biting people, commented: "The use of handcuffs is very effective. It doesn't hurt the child; it gets their hands behind their back and stops the action that is hurting other people."

But there's always an exception . . .

But next thing you know – as this St. Petersburg is in the good old US of A – a lawyer crawled out of the woodwork and started threatening to take the police and the school to court. And the way things are going in this country, something similar could be giving the British news media a thrill before very long.

So what can be done about it?

Blame it on greed and the prevalent compensation culture.
   Blame it on New Labour's doctrine that no one is to blame and no one is ever responsible for their actions, even if they abuse their official powers; or even take their country into a war on the basis of black lies.
   Blame it on the money-grubbing lawyers.
   Blame it on the Eurocrats who create 'human rights' with one hand and wipe away 'human responsibilities' with the other.
   But someday soon, the kid throwing the tantrum, and everything else that it can get its grubby mits on, and ending up in handcuffs, will be British and the meeja pack will be in a synthetic uproar and asking how we got there.
   So before we get to that stage, some government or other is going to have to restore the concept of discipline and personal responsibility to schools (and also the home and government departments). Either that or issue all teachers with nets and tranquillizer dart guns for the day when somebody else's little monster throws a particularly destructive wobbly.


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