School tasing may be new LaFayette 'brand'

School tasing may be new LaFayette 'brand'

May 29th, 2013 in Opinion Times

What? A school resource officer breaks up a fight between two high school girls by shooting one with a Taser?

What? In LaFayette, Ga.?

Perhaps the only thing more mind-numbing than the idea that the school resource officer, Billy Mullis, used a Taser in an inappropriate time, place and way is the fact that LaFayette Police Chief Bengie Clift and Schools Superintendent Damon Raines supported Mullis' decision to fire on the girls, ages 17 and 16.

The scene was captured on a 28-second video by a student with a mobile phone. The footage shows two girls pulling each other's hair in a roll-around match on the pavement outside the school during lunch break.

Wrap your thinking caps around this: School officials across the country are discouraged from paddling youngsters who misbehave, but it's OK to shoot them with a Taser.

Please. At least not in this situation.

This was not an assault rifle-armed teen rampaging school hallways -- which certainly would have constituted a need for the resource officer's quick action. This was not a knife fight. This was two girls challenging each other for space.

Were the girls behaving inappropriately? Sure, but so was breaking up the fight with a Taser gun.

Male or female, we've all been there. Usually in middle school or high school when we felt our perception of ourselves was challenged. One of us pushed. The other pushed back. We repeated the gesture over and over until we were on the ground in a scuffle.

A teacher and coach -- or maybe other students -- stepped in to stop the circus. In a week or so, most of us became fast friends.

But not in LaFayette, Ga., population 7,111. Not in LaFayette, which may have just found the way to fix what town officials have called a problem with "branding" for town marketing.

The video shows a girl shot with the Taser scream and roll face-down on the cement.

Both girls face criminal charges of affray (fighting in a public place), a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a possible fine or up to $1,000. Officials said they plan to try the 17-year-old as an adult.

Meanwhile school officials are pursuing a manhunt for the student who shot the video: It seems he or she violated the school's "appropriate cellphone use" policy that students must sign to promise they will not post online photos and videos made at school.

The Taser incident on Thursday didn't become public until the video was posted on YouTube. It was viewed more than 2,000 times before it was removed Friday. (It can still be viewed on the newspaper's website at timesfreepress.com, and its posting along with the story gleaned more than 250 comments from readers Saturday.)

In late April, LaFayette launched a downtown branding contest, and officials said they will accept entries until June 1.

They want a catchy slogan and logo to promote LaFayette's historic downtown. The winner will get $50 cash and the satisfaction of seeing his or her idea on shirts banners and signs.

Norcross, Ga., has "a place to imagine." Opelousas, La., is "perfectly seasoned." Dalton is known as the "Carpet Capital of the World."

Maybe LaFayette can be the "Home of the Teen Tasers."

It's just mind numbing.