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Exploring Cariol’s Law in Class as an Opportunity for Social Justice and Hope

Dear JT Community, 

As we approach the end of the Derek Chauvin case, I am overwhelmed with dread. I am dreading the verdict, the emotional turmoil, lives being destroyed, and the continuation of this cruel and vicious cycle.

Just writing this makes me nervous, with nausea and shaking hands. I am dreading this conversation with my students, colleagues, and friends. What do I tell them? How do I express my support? How can I be an ally? WHEN WILL THIS END?! Because, this verdict is a reaction to the system, not a change to the system. And for me, that is the foundation of my dread. 

Change. There is so much to address, and I find hope in “Cariol’s Law;” I view it as a starting point. It is a way to have a conversation that may be less charged and less traumatic to my classroom community. 

Cariol Horne was a police officer for just under twenty years. Fifteen years ago she intervened when a fellow police officer (who was white) used excessive force during an arrest. Horne was then reprimanded, fired, and lost all pension/benefits. If you read the whole story, it is eerily similar to the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. After Horne was fired, she became an activist and after fifteen years of advocacy, Buffalo, NY has since passed Cariol’s Law.  

Cariol’s Law not only mandates* police bystander intervention in situations of excessive force, but more importantly protects officers who intervene from retaliation and reprimand. Cariol’s Law protects both the police and the civilians they’re sworn to protect. If implemented correctly, this law can prevent the unnecessary deaths of innocent people. This law can prevent the destruction of police officers’ and civilians’ lives. At the end of the day, that’s what we want to preserve: life.

As I reflect on the murder of George Floyd and most recently Duante Wright, you must understand, I am a product of this system. To quote Ibram X. Kendi, “Like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.” That is why, when I see white officers, it is easy to see my white family members; I can see these officers as their family and friends see them. I see my charismatic brother, sarcastic dad, comical uncle, and loving grandfather. Sometimes, I see me. 

As a teacher, I see the devastation of multiple lives destroyed. First and most importantly, the family of George Floyd. The family experiencing an unnecessary and tragic loss. This should be the only necessary argument for change, but in our society it is not enough. For me, it is enough. 

But I am a product of the system, so I cannot stop also thinking about the secondary victims. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, a victim is “one that is acted on and usually adversely affected by a force or agent.” The families of the police officers are also victims. May 25, 2020, the murder of George Floyd, destroyed at least five families. Created multiple victims. I cannot stop thinking about the families of the police officers, especially their children and wives. This unnecessary murder created a ripple effect of tragedy. 

As humans, we have all been in high-stress, emotional situations. We have all witnessed something spiral out of control and are grateful for the friend or stranger who intervenes, calms the situation down, removes the red from our sight. 

If you share the dread, don’t know what to say, or are simply unsure, I hope Cariol’s Law gives you a starting point and some hope. A place to set a foundation, because unfortunately, this past week resulted in another unnecessary death of Duante Wright at the hands of police. There will be more trials, more conversations, more emotions - and I am demanding change. 

If you are comfortable, in class, you can make time to discuss Cariol’s Law. Give students time to read an article (I suggest this one) and to research Cariol’s Law website. Explain that this law is only applicable in Buffalo, NY and engage your students in a conversation about how this law would impact our community. Then, give students time to engage in social justice by writing to local city council members, state representatives, state senators, federal representatives, and federal senators to demand that Cariol’s Law be adopted in our community and state. If you believe this law would benefit our community, I encourage you to write to your local representatives alongside our students. 

Let’s continue supporting each other, and let’s provide safety for those, who like us, want to see lives lived. 

Thank you for reading,
Paige

 

You can use the website, https://demandaction.app/ to efficiently find representatives’ information. Here is a template you can share with students and/or copy and paste in a communication to your representatives.

*It is important to mention that there is a Duty to Intervene Law. But the law is interpreted inconsistently and it is common for officers to be reprimanded for intervening. https://www.justice.gov/crt/law-enforcement-misconduct 

https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/06/hanink-verma-ward-trust-police/ 

Thank you for reading this blog post.  We encourage dialogue about this issue and also welcome any other questions or concerns you may have about equity, inclusion or culturally responsive teaching at JTHS. Please feel free to share anything using the question form and we will respond to you as soon as we can directly or in a future blog post.  All faculty are also invited to contribute to this blog: if you are interested in writing a post please reach out to any member of the Culturally Responsive Trainers team.