Urban League Leaders Condemn Violent School Discipline Caught on Video, Call for Immediate Intervention

Marc Morial, President National Urban League

Candi Johnson, President | Greater Chattanooga Urban League 

NEW YORK and CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (September 2022) – National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial and Urban League of Greater Chattanooga President and CEO Candy C. Johnson (last week) condemned the brutal mistreatment of an East Ridge High School student that was captured on video, and called for increased behavior intervention and cultural competency education across the district. 

“The level of violence directed at a student who posed no threat to anyone is unacceptable,” Johnson said. Appropriately-trained staff could have mitigated the situation without involving police resulting in this violent act. Instead, it appears the goal was to merely demonstrate the adults’ power and humiliate the student. The school resource officer should be also disciplined appropriately. This is not the environment we want to see in schools.” 

The incident lent urgency to the recommendations of the 2022 State of Black Chattanooga report,  which found overwhelming racial disparities in student discipline in Hamilton County Schools.   Black students in Hamilton County received out of school suspension four times more often than white students and were expelled seven times more often than white students.  The recommendations include increasing teacher diversity, providing support to retain educators of color, and expanded cultural education for all educators — interventions which could help decrease the disproportionate discipline rates of Black students and improve overall school climate.

“The video is a stark and painful illustration of the criminalization of minor disciplinary issues where Black students are concerned,” Morial said. “A child’s physical safety and developing sense of self were battered in service to the sensitive egos of adults.  That’s not just a red flag but a screaming alarm that the disciplinary system is broken and in need of a drastic overhaul.”

Both the National Urban League and the Chattanooga affiliate stand ready to work with the school district to bring much needed reform.