The cop isn't the only problem in the Spring Valley High video. How we treat students is too.

Yesterday, the world saw shocking footage of a young African-American girl being grabbed across the neck, aggressively yanked to the ground under a flipped desk, and dragged across the room by a white male police officer.

The disturbing clip went viral along with calls for justice and the hashtag #AssaultatSpringValley.



The response was swift. This morning, Deputy Sheriff Officer Ben Fields was fired.

In a press conference today, Richmond County Sheriff Leon Lott stated that the girl had not been a danger or posed a threat to anyone and that Fields clearly did not use proper protocol. The Justice Department and the FBI will also be looking into the case to see if further action is needed as some are calling for Fields to now be prosecuted for assault and his use of excessive force.

But something Lott said during the press conference exposed a troubling problem that has nothing to do with police brutality.

Lott admitted that maybe this case provides a good opportunity to evaluate (emphasis added) "the role of the [Student Resource Officer] and what schools are using us for. Should [Officer Fields] have ever been called? Maybe that's something that the administrator should have handled without ever calling the officer."

So why was the cop called in the first place? What was the student doing that was so "disruptive"?

She had her cell phone out in class. According to a classmate, it was only "for a quick second," so when the teacher told her to leave because of it, she refused, stating that she hadn't done anything wrong. For that, she was ultimately grabbed around her neck and dragged across the floor by a cop.


The police action taken in response to what sounds like no more than a stubborn student shines a spotlight on the real issue: An alarming culture of control and punishment within our education system.

Under the guise of "discipline," our schools have become a place where students are made to follow an excessive number of rules and then harshly punished for breaking them.

Princeton University's Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies and faculty associate of law and public affairs Dr. Imani Perry addressed the issue head-on in the following Facebook post yesterday. If you want to read it in its entirety, here it is. But I'll break down the key stuff below.

Dr. Perry begins by saying that "Punishment has become the dominant logic in so many arenas in this society, especially [in] schools for poor and working class Black and Latino students."

The military-like school rules that demand that children be still, sit for long periods of time in uncomfortable positions, not use the bathroom without permission or stretch when they need to, stand in single file line, be silent, sit on the floor to "earn their desks," and other similar restrictions can make school feel less like a place of growth and learning and more like boot camp.

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates described his memories of attending an urban public school in this way in his autobiography "Between the World and Me":

When children break these rules, the punishment is often harsh and excessive.

In her Facebook post, Perry calls the logic behind these harsh punishments both "developmentally inappropriate and pedagogically unsound." In other words, child specialists and education experts alike know that the type of discipline is neither healthy nor productive.

And to make matters worse, this harsh punishment is disproportionately doled out to students of color.

Photo via iStock.

Just last year a report on school discipline in the nation's public schools was released by U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and the results were disheartening, to say the least. Across all age groups, black students are three times more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled.

It starts early, too. According to the report, black children only make up 18% of preschoolers but make up nearly half of all out-of-school suspensions. Because black 4-year-olds are so uniquely out of control?

Those punishments often quickly escalate to police engagement.

Photo by Ringo Chiu/AFP/Getty Images.

With the increased presence of student resource officers in schools, student actions are much more likely to be labeled criminal. According to Think Progress:

Thousands of officers across the country — many of whom are armed — are more involved in the disciplinary process than ever and exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline. Kids are more likely to be suspended and expelled for minor offenses. More children are arrested for nonviolent, school-related offenses, such as violating a dress code or walking in the hall without a pass.

The DOE report also found that while black students make up about 16% of enrolled students, they make up more than a quarter of all students who are referred to the police.

It is what experts call the school-to-prison pipeline — and it's what we saw play out right in front of our eyes in the Spring Valley High School clip.

This is the culture that not only allowed an officer to physically assault a young girl for being "disrespectful" but one in which the teacher stood idly by and watched it happen.

My heart aches not just for her but for the countless children who are treated every day with far less humanity, love, and compassion than they deserve — for the children who are treated more like military recruits than precious minds and more like caged animals than daughters and sons.


Are some rules necessary and helpful? Sure. And is discipline also sometimes necessary to create an environment that is conducive to learning for all students? Absolutely.

But theoretically, we send our children to school to learn not just reading and writing but also how to be responsible, creative, thinking, self-governing adults in the real world. Does being kicked out of class and ultimately arrested for looking at a cellphone really accomplish that goal?

The result of this punitive culture and police engagement in classroom discipline was on display, front and center in the #AssaultatSpringValley video. And while Fields has already been fired for his excessive use of force, it's up to us to demand better for all students, especially our most vulnerable, each and everyday.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.