When Tennessee resident Jim Howe, 40, took issue with a school policy that prevented him from walking to his children’s school and picking the youngsters up on campus rather than sitting in a line of traffic alongside the highway last week, he was arrested by a school resource officer.
Howe felt that a newly implemented school policy requiring parents of South Cumberland Elementary schoolchildren to wait in a line of cars on the side of a local highway was not only a waste of time, but also a traffic danger.
“It’s a violation of our parental rights. It’s a violation of our rights as people,” Howe said in an interview following last week’s incident. “I don’t have any regrets. … We have to stand up against bad policy and stand up for our rights. If we don’t we won’t have any.”
The father of 8- and-14-year-old students decided that instead of putting himself and other motorists in danger on the side of the highway because of the school’s new policy, he would walk to the school and pick up his children in person.
School officials, however, refused to release the man’s children and informed him that his only options were to get in the line of traffic or to fill out a form allowing his children to leave the school by themselves. Howe’s fiancée videoed his final encounter with school officials last week which ended in his arrest.
“They’re walking with me when school’s dismissed,” Howe told School Resource Officer Avery Aytes on Thursday.
“No, they’re not,” the officer replied.
The officer, who was already irked that the incident was being filmed, got angry when Howe questioned why the school would refuse to release his children to him after they had been dismissed from class.
“I’m going to call some help down here and we’re going to take you up to the jail right now. I’m not putting up with this today. You’re being childish and it’s uncalled for,” Aytes said.
The officer went on to berate Howe and question why the man wouldn’t simply comply with the policy.
“You are the only one — the only one — who is making a big deal out of this,” the officer said, later asking Howe if he “was proud of himself.”
Accusing the father of attempting to intimidate a law enforcement officer, Aytes then told the man that he was going to be arrested for disorderly conduct.
“The county jail is where you’re going,” Aytes said at one point of the conversation.
“That’s fine; I’ve been there before,” Howe answered.
“Good. You’re about to go there again,” Aytes said.
“You don’t need a reason as a parent to go get your children. They are our children,” Howe said at another point in the video.
As Howe argued that State and Federal law gives him every right to walk to the school and pick up his children, Aytes put him in handcuffs. Howe was later released and has a court date scheduled for Dec. 2.
School officials and the county sheriff backed Aytes’ actions, according to WAT.
“The resource officers are there to enforce the law,” Cumberland County Sheriff Butch Burgess said.
The sheriff went on to say that he agrees with Howe “on principle” and noted that he, too, believes there are safety problems with the school’s new policy.
“On the other hand, the school system needs to realize you can’t make a black-and-white law,” Burgess said.
Howe, who now says he has no choice but to comply with the policy, said in a follow-up interview that he is not against school rules, but doesn’t think the resource officer acted appropriately.
“If not for policy, we would have chaos, and we don’t need chaos at the schools, but we also don’t need an overzealous deputy setting an example in front of kids,” Howe said.