Solidarity Statement with Brian Burney and Philadelphia Student Union

Solidarity Statement with Brian Burney and Philadelphia Student Union

The Philadelphia South Asian Collective (PSAC) supports Brian Burney and the Philadelphia Student Union in their call to fire Officer Jeffrey Maciocha and for the overhaul of school policing in the Philadelphia School District.


On Thursday, May 5th, Officer Jeffrey Maciocha assaulted Ben Franklin High School student, Brian Burney, while Burney was attempting to use the bathroom. According to Maciocha and in the report filed by the School District, Burney threw an orange at Officer Jeffrey Maciocha, who was obstructing him from using the restroom. Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) contests this claim and maintains that Brian threw the orange at the wall. With PSU, we oppose the School District’s position on the following grounds: going to the bathroom and throwing an orange–whether at the wall or at an officer–are not violent acts.  Officer Maciocha’s response was therefore grossly unwarranted.  We condemn the violent behaviour displayed by Officer Maciocha towards Brian Burney and support PSU’s call to fire him. Instead of de-escalating a harmless situation, Officer Maciocha disproportionately escalated it by punching Burney and causing him severe injuries, including a concussion. Affirming his actions normalizes police violence and police culture in our schools. As Burney himself observes of conditions experienced by students at Ben Franklin High: “I feel like we’re being treated like criminals because every morning, security and cops put our bags through X-ray machines, and we have to go through metal detectors and then be screened again with metal detector wands.” These are conditions of a prison, not a school.


We are appalled that an employee of Ben Franklin High School took it upon themselves to delete video footage of the incident, filmed by one of Burney’s peers. Public education is meant to prepare students to become thoughtful community members who are mindful of their responsibility to support one another’s well-being. Burney’s peer was doing exactly that. The student was simply filming an incident, which is a completely legal act. We fail to understand why it was that the same educational personnel tasked with instructing students about these matters were the ones who prevented the student from carrying out their civic duty.  


We reiterate that Black youth are often portrayed as violent–even when they respond to violence against their persons by abusive police officers. Black youth are repeatedly told to comply and to react non-violently to any violence committed against them, including violence committed against them by the police. Research has shown that youth who consistently experience violence in their school environments often experience debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder later on in life, along with other mental health conditions that accompany chronic exposure to violence. Members of PSAC are concerned for the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of students so heavily policed by the institutions that claim to educate them.


PSAC opposes the prioritization of keeping police personnel on payroll in the Philadelphia School District under the pretext of keeping students “safe.” As many critics of the school-to-prisons pipeline have pointed out, the current system of public education in the United States privileges criminalizing and incarcerating young black and brown people as a way of disciplining them over facilitating learning conditions in which they can thrive. With the Philadelphia Student Union, we affirm that “Police in schools are the by-product of decades of disinvestment by the state coupled with the racist notion that the only way to ‘control’ young people of color is to criminalize and arrest them.” “Controlling” youth is not equivalent to educating our youth and we must divorce the notion of education from extreme discipline as witnessed in our public school systems. We affirm the Philadelphia Student Union’s call for the complete overhauling of policing in the Philadelphia School District.


We stand with Brian Burney and his family’s demand to fire Officer Maciocha . We believe that a grave injustice has been committed in this instance, and further believe that injustices continue to be committed against youth in Philadelphia’s public school as a whole and stand with PSU’s demands.

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