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Thursday, February 6, 2014


While principal of a large high school several years ago I was confronted by one of our students (I’ll call him Doug) in the hall one day.  Doug asked for a moment of my time in order to lodge a complaint.  I am a strong believer in student voice, so I was more than happy to hear Doug’s concerns. 

Doug told me that he had a real problem with Officer Smith (not his real name), one of the school resource officers assigned to our campus.  Doug felt that Officer Smith was too gruff.  He objected to Officer Smith’s brusk and dismissive personality.  And, Doug told me that he didn’t like it when Officer Smith told him what, or what not, to do.

After hearing Doug out, I asked if he had ever lived on a farm.  
“No, sir.”  
I asked if he had ever been on a ranch, or around cattle.  
“No, sir.”  
I asked Doug if he had ever had any dealings with bulls.  
“No, sir,” was again his reply.

I then shared with Doug a strongly held personal belief of mine, which has evolved from numerous painful experiences.  That belief is that the best way to deal with bulls is to give them all the room they want.  Bulls, for the most part, don’t much bother humans unless/until humans start getting in their “space.”  Trouble occurs when we humans start trying to get bulls to do, or not do, something (almost, anything, in fact) they are disinclined to do.  Actually, bulls respond best to gentle invitations and enticements (like the feed bucket).

The lesson I was trying to teach Doug is an important one.  It is usually best to NOT incite those who have an inordinate amount of power over us (whatever the source of that power may be).  Officers of the law fit into that category.  And, it is almost always better to deal with that powerful other from a basis of respectfulness, not confrontation or aggressive brashness.

Peace officers have a very tough job.  We should be deferential to them unless they are acting in unethical or illegal ways.   Picking a fight with a lawman (or a bull) will rarely pay positive dividends.   

I think Doug was listening (but, he was a sophomore, so I can’t be sure).

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