The climate in our nation’s public schools is ever-changing. Unfortunately, it seems to be changing for the worse. Many of our students seem to lack social and functional skills, human decency and compassion. When I read stories about anti-social student behavior, I am reminded of the caliber of students who walk the halls of public schools everywhere. These are the same students we are charged with teaching and ensuring achievement. Thankfully, most students display appropriate behavior. The conduct of some students, however, makes me wonder if they should have the privilege of attending school at all.
According to a story I read on the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) website, a group of teens in Tennessee used a five-year-old student to lure her sister off a nearby high school campus to start a fight with her. According to the information in the article, the assailants took the child from the elementary school campus, filmed themselves punching the child in the face and sent the video to her sister. Her sister responded as expected and the assailants beat her mercilessly as the child watched screaming and crying.
After reading the story, I was speechless. I literally had no words to describe my angst. I was sad for the little girl. I was sad for her sister. I was sad for public schools and I was sad for the future. These teens attend school somewhere. I cannot imagine what they might be like in the classroom.
Teens who would plot the abduction and assault of a kindergarten student have the potential to be a danger to everyone in the school setting. Yet, these teens have a protected right to attend public schools. With students like these in the classroom, what is happening with the learning and achievement of students who are there to learn?
In cases like this, school should be viewed as a privilege, not a right. Teachers and students should not have to navigate the antisocial behavior of others to take advantage of a free and appropriate education. Yet, increasingly, this is the reality in our nation’s public schools. It’s time that we stop tolerating chaos on our campuses and restore order to education. Until we regain control of the learning environment, American students will continue to lag woefully (and embarrassingly) behind nations who lack the resources and technology afforded to our students.
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