Both sides of Danville classroom video

Published 7:13 pm Monday, August 26, 2019

I see both sides of the Danville High School incident involving Ms. Zinner, a person I have considered a valued friend for over 30 years, and therefore feel obliged to speak on her behalf, although we have not discussed this matter. Furthermore, Ms. Reddy’s column discusses micro-aggressions, a topic which has captured my attention a good deal over the last couple of years.

It is entirely possible that Ms. Zinner is completely in the wrong in this issue, that this young man said nothing to warrant her reprimand, and she overreacted when he stepped on her last nerve that day in the resource room.

On the other hand, having listened to sworn testimony in open court, I can assure you that we seldom really know both sides of a story. If her phrase, “In America…..” was meant to imply that he was an outsider and doesn’t belong, that would of course be completely unacceptable to most people in America.

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It also would strike me as completely out of character coming from a person I know has given countless hours of her life to assisting children in the Danville schools and her church.

Were this student a female Muslim wearing a hajib, or a Jewish boy in a yarmulke, such a comment may warrant some disciplinary action, or at least sensitivity training. If, however, it was her response after having told him of the rule regarding headwear, and he continued to violate the rule, then her response can be understood. The video (which I understand should not have occurred in regard to school rules regarding cell phones) does not contain a cogent explanation trying to convince her that he has some cultural or religious reason to be excused from the rule.

It seems that many newsworthy micro-aggressions begin with one party having violated a rule — perhaps the sign that says charcoal grills are not allowed, or a parking space is reserved for handicapped persons. Then an aggrieved party, sometimes a person employed to enforce the rules (attempting to do his or her job), or sometimes someone wanting to be the culture cop, responds by overreacting. I remember a report of an incident in which an adult called authorities for a child selling water, among other minor infractions, when kinder words could have cooled the atmosphere.

A cell phone video does not give us the whole story, and while we should all try to understand that we should be sensitive to cultural differences, there are usually good reasons for rules, and we should be careful in denigrating people who enforce them.

Paul S. White