Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Paris in Springtime: Justice for Joquan Wallace

Principal Gary Preston & Officer Joel McCarthy
If you walked up to me in a store, a library or a bar and told me a high school kid in Texas had recently been arrested for using the bathroom in his school, I'd be skeptical to say the least.

But according to a petition currently circulating online by by a woman named Brenda Cherry, that's exactly what happened at Paris High School in Paris, Texas to a student named Joquan Wallace.

Apparently Joquan asked and received permission from his teacher to use the can, which he did. Only a school police officer named Joel McCarthy (pictured above) who, like the student, is also African-American, followed him in there and then questioned him outside in the hall about why he hadn't used a bathroom closer to his classroom. Joquan explained that he had to sit rather than stand and preferred to use the other bathroom to do his business; plus he had permission from his teacher.

Apparently officer McCarthy wasn't having it. The incident escalated after McCarthy followed Joquan back to his class and ordered him to go to the office and Joquan refused. Eventually the school principal Gary Preston (pictured above left) joined McCarthy in trying to force Joquan to the office and the student ended up being assaulted by both men.

The assault was witnessed by numerous students as principal Preston and officer McCarthy tried to put Joquan in a head lock and slammed him against the wall of the classroom multiple times. Check out both Joquan's statement about the incident as well as multiple quotes from students who witnessed the assault on The Paris Texas Chronicle Home blog.

Joquan  ended up in the emergency room with injuries from the incident, neither the officer or the principal did, but that didn't stop them from claiming the student had assaulted them and arresting the kid, charging him with two felonies and sending him to the police station where he was locked up.

We're not talking about some juvenile criminal thug here. By all accounts Joquan Wallace was well-behaved, quiet, a good student, has only been tardy twice the entire year, has no record of any kind of violence or disruptive behavior and also excelled at track and football. He apparently was a good enough athlete to be in line for a few college scholarship opportunities; but that's now in doubt as he was expelled from school for the remainder of the year and cannot march at graduation with his sister.

Back on March 23rd this blog focused on disturbing Department of Education statistics that show evidence of wide disparities in how much harsher disciplinary measures are meted out to students of color on a far more frequent basis of race by teachers and administrators than to their white counterparts for the same offenses.

"Enlightened" right-wing thinkers (contradiction in terms anyone?) like Heather MacDonald would trip over themselves in an effort dismiss such statistical evidence as presented by the DOE wholesale in favor of regurgitating ingrained age-old stereotypical assumptions of black male behavior to justify how many students like Joquan are treated.

But to do otherwise would contradict the perceptions they've been raised with and taught in America; and as we know these days right-wing conservatives in the US are never ones to allow truth, facts or history get in the way of their own perceptions.

But the positive side of the bizarre account of Joquan Wallace is that the behavior of an administrator like Gary Preston and a police officer like Joel McCarthy (in terms of their violent response to a student they accused unfairly) is exposed for exactly what it is.

The story has blown up on the Internet and gone global; and the pressure is building.

As I stated in the beginning of this blog entry, there's a petition to Gary D. Young the attorney of Lamar County and Paul Jones, the superintendent of the Paris Independent School District to drop the felony charges against the young Mr. Wallace and let him graduate. So take a couple minutes and follow the link to the petition to add your name.

It's already gotten 161,021 signatures from people around the world, lend your voice to make a difference in a promising young man's life. This is America, and no one regardless of religion, race, nationality or sexual orientation should be charged with two felonies for using the school bathroom.

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