Trayvon’s School Super Wins Ironic Award





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March 26, 2014 -
© Jack Cashill

Last month The School Superintendent’s Association named Miami-Dade Public Schools’ Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho National Superintendent of the Year.

Not since the Norwegians gave Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize has a major award been so promiscuously given.

Carvalho received the award less than two years after one of the students in charge, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida.

If someone is to be “blamed” for that shooting, it is not George Zimmerman. It is Alberto M. Carvalho.

In the way of background, On March 26, 2012, three days after Obama’s “If I had a son” speech, the Miami Herald dug a little deeper into the pastimes of young Mr. Martin.

It published a piece by Frances Robles whose very title—“ Multiple suspensions paint complicated portrait of Trayvon Martin”--should have caused the other media to put a brake on Martin’s canonization.

The A and B student of a week earlier who “majored in cheerfulness” had apparently been suspended three times within a year and “had a spotty school record.”

The most troubling of those suspensions was handed down in October 2011, four months before Martin’s death. A school police officer saw him in an unauthorized area “hiding and being suspicious.” There he had written “WTF” — shorthand for “what the f***”—on a locker.

The next day the officer rifled through Martin’s book bag looking for the offending marker and found something more interesting: twelve pieces of women’s jewelry, a watch and a large flathead screwdriver that the officer described as a “burglary tool.”

Martin reportedly told the officer that the jewelry wasn’t his but that “a friend gave it to me.” School police seized the jewelry and stored it.

In February, Robles reported, Martin was suspended again, this time for carrying a plastic bag with marijuana residue and a marijuana pipe.

According to the Herald, Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said the family knew nothing about the jewelry and the screwdriver.

“It’s completely irrelevant to what happened Feb. 26,” said Crump. “They never heard this, and don’t believe it’s true. If it were true, why wouldn’t they call the parents? Why wasn’t he arrested?”

First of all, it was not irrelevant. When Zimmerman first saw Martin, he told the dispatcher, “ This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about.” Given Martin’s record, Zimmerman was likely right on all counts.

As to why no arrest, Martin had the seeming good fortune of pursuing his education in Carvalho’s district, the fourth largest in the country and one of the few with its own police department.

The Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (M-DSPD) has more than 150 sworn personnel and, as the Martin case would reveal, problems unique to its peculiar mission.

Through its diligent exploitation of the Freedom of Information Act, the blogging collective known as The Conservative Treehouse was uniquely able to discover why the M-DSPD allowed Martin to skate.

As it happened, the Miami Herald story on Martin’s criminality prompted M-DSPD Chief Charles Hurley to launch a major Internal Affairs (IA) investigation into the leak of Martin’s criminal history.

As the IA investigation began, the officers realized immediately that they had a problem on their hands. “Oh, God, oh, my God, oh, God,” one major reportedly said when first looking at Martin’s data.

He could see that Martin had been suspended twice already that school year for offenses that should have gotten him arrested. In each case, however, the case file on Martin was fudged to make the crime less serious than it was.

To their credit, the officers, when questioned, told the truth about Martin and about the policies that kept him out of the justice system.

From their statements, made under oath, it appears that Hurley instructed his officers to divert offending juveniles away from the criminal justice system and back to their respective schools for discipline.

He did this subtly. As one detective told IA, the arrest statistics coming out of Martin’s school, Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School, had been “quite high,” and the detectives “needed to find some way to lower the stats.”

This directive allegedly came from Hurley. At least a few officers confirmed that Hurley was particularly concerned with the arrest rates of black males in the Miami-Dade system. 

In a letter obtained by NBC 6 of South Florida, a senior detective wrote, "[Hurley] asked that I reduce the number of arrests I affect of all black juveniles.”

In a purely statistical sense, district policies were working. On Feb. 15, 2012, eleven days before Martin’s death, Carvalho put out a press release boasting of a 35 percent decrease in referrals to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

“It is our intent to demonstrate compassion and understanding to our students and their families when it comes to law enforcement,” boasted Carvalho.

In truth, however, the only “compassion” a diverted student like Martin was getting was to be sent home—or wherever—on an unmonitored suspension.

As a result, his parents seemed genuinely oblivious of the kind of trouble he had been stumbling into. Nor was there any “prevention.”

Martin’s apprehension with the women’s jewelry tool and a burglary tool should have been a wake-up call for everyone in his life. It was not.

Given the directives from the top, officers chose not to link Martin directly to the jewelry. They instead wrote a report about “found items.”

There was no further investigation. As far as Martin’s parents knew, Martin had wandered into an “unauthorized area” and been suspended. No big deal. Boys will be boys.

With his previous crimes winked at, Martin felt empowered to commit more. Unfortunately for him, the man he chose to attack that night in Sanford just happened to be armed.

Fortunately for Carvalho, Martin’s death at the hands of George Zimmerman showed up on the Sanford stat sheet, not M-DSPD’s.

That could have been a career killer.

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