Sunday, April 19, 2009


Hilo students witnessed torture

by Larry Geller

Andrea Shaw, the grandparent guardian of a Keaau High student, learned of the incident as it happened. Shaw was headed to Oahu for a doctor's appointment and had borrowed her granddaughter's cell phone for the day when the device started vibrating.

"It was a text message from one of her friends; it said, 'OMG, I just saw someone get Tased,'" Shaw said. "I wouldn't want my child witnessing that kind of thing," Shaw said. "It's traumatizing.[Star-Bulletin, Fight stopped by Taser sparks Big Isle inquiry, 4/19/2009]

Yes, traumatizing is the word. Maybe even PTSD. Watching someone screaming and writhing in pain on the ground is a horrible experience (unless maybe you’re a cop, something I wonder about). That’s not what kids should be experiencing in school.

Kids are smarter than police. They know that Tasers can kill. They read widely on the Internet, where it’s no secret. They know that the police could have killed that Big Island student. It’s nothing new.

Going back to a CBS News story from November 2007:

A United Nations committee said Friday that use of Taser weapons can be a form of torture, in violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

"The use of TaserX26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases it could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use," the committee said in a statement.

The investigation of this incident should go beyond the appropriateness of the use of a Taser on this student. The Star-Bulletin reported that there will be more (presumably Taser-equipped) police on campus:

She said there will be more police on campus as officers watch for truancy and fights. The school has drafted a letter to parents notifying them of the increased police presence.

Truancy is not a capital offense in Hawaii, nor is it necessary to have police enforce the truancy laws on campus. Increasing the number of police indicates a failure on the part of the school administration and also the DOE to provide a safe environment for education. They have not solved whatever problems there are, they are just hoping to escape their responsibilities by using law enforcement officers.

What about education and prevention? Are there programs to keep students usefully occupied? Is there an effective and well-supported peer mediation program at the school? In other words, besides calling in the cops, what is the school doing about conduct issues that might be effective in preventing incidents such as this from occurring in the first place?

Tasing a student is a serious failure on its own right, and doing so in front of other students caused significant harm to them. I think that’s indisputable.

I hope parents will react and call both the principal and the DOE on the carpet over this, and demand that solutions be sought other than torturing students in their place of learning and development.

Do Something

Does tasing a student in school disturb you? Do you think it should be stopped?

If so, please Do Something.

You could demand that the video taken by the Taser (if there was one) be released. They’ll fight that, but we should keep asking. That’s what the video camera is for, to help determine if use of the weapon was appropriate. Of course, the police don’t want you to see it. So ask for it as a public record.

Send letters to the editor, to the Board of Education (, to your state legislators, whatever you like. Tags: , , , ,


Would you rather the young man had been clubbed with a nightstick?

Better than killing him. You must know that there are other options besides Tasers/nightsticks. There are whole training courses on how to handle difficult situations.

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