Above: Principal Marcia Sidney Reed of 186th Street Elementary and LAPD Officer Michael Scott lead students in the ‘Cupid Shuffle.’
LAPD Officer Michael Scott stood in front of more than 800 schoolchildren and staff sitting outdoors at 186th Street Elementary School and asked them to recite a pledge they had written earlier, promising to be good citizens.
Scott was the emcee, the host and the band leader. He stood in front of a table with bottles. They were filled with colored water that he labeled “drugs,” “crime,” “gangs” and “bullying.”
“All are poison,” Scott told the crowd excitedly. “Do you get that?”
“Yeessssss,” the children screamed as if they were at a concert and responding to a lead singer’s question. Scott turned to the liquid-filled containers and went down the line pausing at each one.
“If you do drugs, it is poison,” Scott said. “If you decide to join a gang, it is poison. If you do even small crimes, it is poison. If you decide to bully somebody, it’s poison. You guys get it right? Poison drugs, poison gangs, poison crime and poison bullying. Today we’re going to encourage you to say ‘No.’”
Now, it was time for some fun. It was time to do the “Cupid Shuffle,” a popular line dance that brought the crowd of adults and children to their feet.
“Come on up,” he said as people streamed toward him.
“This is a celebration,” he said leading a demonstration. “We are going to do it all together,” he said.
About two years ago, sworn officers of the Los Angeles Police Department’s baseball team wanted to do their part to bring communities and police together through baseball. Scott, a 19-year veteran in the police department, designed a rally for students.
The “Just Say No” rallies have been held monthly for the past two-and-a-half years, reaching 8,000 elementary, middle and high schools students. (See additional L.A. Unified coverage.)
Scott skillfully blends his good citizenship and anti-poison messages with music and fun, while holding contests like ‘Which teacher can hula hoop the longest?’ and ‘Who’s the best student rapper?’ The officers give away dozens of toy prizes and several bicycles during the high-voltage event.
Every student at 186th Street Elementary made the pledge. It was the single, largest number of promises the program has ever accepted at one time.
Scott is working to expand the program through additional sponsorships, so that more children can be reached in this positive way. He says the goal is to reach students en masse before they can get into trouble.
“We do this from the heart because we care about the youth,” he said.
During the program, students heard from the top cop in Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck, who also attended the event.
“You are the most important people in the whole world to us,” he said. “You are our future and our hearts. It is so important that you lead safe lives, important lives and become all you can be. We are here to ensure that happens.”
Principal Marcia Sidney Reed described the rally as “awesome.”
“Today was truly an amazing day for children to see that it’s OK to be a good citizen,” she said. “The students were saluted for making a pledge and making a promise not to abuse drugs, not to join a gang, not to get involved in crime, to be peacemakers and not peace breakers. It was also a chance for them to see police officers as our friends. We’re all speaking the same language. Be a good citizen, and ‘just say no.’”
During the rally, the kids screamed as loudly as they could — or so it seemed.
Scott, who said he believed the event would save some lives down the road, encouraged them to be even more boisterous. And, the kids, as if on cue, responded:
“JUST SAY NO.”
“JUST SAY NO.”
“JUST SAY NO.”
As the rally ended, a number of kids crowded around the officers, particularly Scott. One kindergartner gave him a hug.
“If we teach them while they’re young, they absorb it,” he said, “the rest is history.”