What’s Good for the Goose . . .

What’s good for the goose is not good for the gander in the Woodland Hills school district.

Back in April school staff were caught on video cameras manhandling students just days apart. Joseph Golden III, a behavior specialist at the Rankin Promise School, was reported immediately by the school district to Pennsylvania’s child protective services.  Golden was suspended the day of his incident and the district immediately began taking steps to fire him.  Superintendent Alan Johnson was “very saddened and sickened” by Golden’s behavior (TribLive, May 9).

Furthermore, when Allegheny County police and the district attorney’s office became aware of the incident, Golden was arrested and charged with assault and child endangerment. The incident occurred on April 12th but the video didn’t make the news for several weeks.  It shows Golden lifting a 13-year-old boy by the neck and dragging him down a hallway.  Not an approved “behavioral intervention” by any means.

On April 3rd, high school “resource officer” Steve Shaulis was famously caught truly assaulting a 14-year-old student at the high school: he put the young man in a headlock, dragged and body slammed him, and, in the ensuing scuffle, knocked out a tooth.  The student was charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest.  The DA’s office is “investigating” that incident to see if perhaps Shaulis should get some charges!  Neither that assault, nor an incident from last November when a student recorded high school principal Kevin Murray threatening to knock a kid’s tooth out, drew outraged reaction from Superintendent Johnson.

Those incidents were just the “worst possible coincidences” that Johnson knew “in my heart” don’t “reflect what Woodland Hills is about.” He and some collective “we” were “trying not to let it overshadow all the good we’ve done” (Post-Gazette, April 24).

The ‘R’ word

This is what Woodland Hills is “about”: all of the student victims are African American. So is Golden, but Shaulis and Murray are white. To district administration, Golden’s behavior is “unacceptable” and so he’s got to go immediately.  Murray and Shaulis – also caught on video in 2015 beating up and Tasing a black student – are just misunderstood, unfortunate – and white.

Murray is not only still the principal of the high school, but newly named head coach of the prestigious football program. Golden is facing jail time, but no one – certainly not the DA’s office – is talking about similar punishment for either Murray or Shaulis.  And while the DA’s office takes its time and “investigates” naked brutality by white adults, it wastes no time in charging the black student victims.

Golden’s behavior was out of line and hard to defend. But Shaulis and Murray are caught red-handed running the principal’s office like an interrogation room at Guantanamo Bay.

Needless to say, parents of black students are livid at the school district. They’ve been packing school board meetings but their more-than-reasonable demands that Shaulis and Murray be fired are continually met with the equivalent of a hearty middle finger.  In a school district that was born in the fires of racial fear and resentment, the district’s administration, led by Alan Johnson, continues to take an offensive and demeaning stance toward black students and parents.

The Woodland Hills school board meets throughout the summer and when it does, the parents and supporters of black students will continue to make their displeasure known. The district is over 60 percent African American; with unity and organization, it’s possible for the community to make its power felt.  This disgraceful, racist situation cannot be allowed to continue.  Racist principals, “resource officers” and superintendents have to go.

But all residents of Allegheny County should save some outrage for DA Stephen Zappala, who knows a crime when it’s committed by a black underling or a kid, but not when the head man and his overseer do the acting out. He’s not up for reelection until 2019 – plenty of time for a principled opposition to come together and put him out to pasture.

— James Collins

 

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