While I don't have any children of my own that are of school age, I do have a few friends that do. So, in order to keep up in the conversation with my mommy friends, I've been reading about our school systems all over the country. I have to say that I am appalled by some of the stories I have encountered as of late. With each story came a little bit more disgust. Recurring themes popped out at me as I read and I realized what our biggest problems in schools today are (with the exception of teacher lay-offs and severe budget cuts--which are both separate topics of their own for another time). I narrowed them down to the three that happened to rub me the wrong way, this time.
|Selecia Johnson (6 years old)|
#3 Over-use (Misuse) of Police Force in Schools
Lately I've come across several articles which deal with this topic. I was rather surprised by what I've been reading. In my home town, the high school that I went to my freshman year had several police officers on campus; so the presence of police in schools is no surprise to me. I understand the need to keep drugs, gangs, and violence out of schools and in bigger cities, where these things are of more concern, I also understand the need to enforce the use of cops in those schools.
However, I was surprised to hear about a Georgia kindergartner who was handcuffed by police and escorted downtown in the back of a cruiser to the station, simply because of a tantrum she had while at school. This little girl is 6 years old. I will agree that her tantrum was out of hand. I will agree that she was endangering herself and others around her. I agree that this kind of violent outburst by anyone is unacceptable. I do not agree with handcuffing a 6 year old child and driving said child downtown to the police station. To me this just seems extreme. There are other ways in which this situation could have been handled by the adults at the school without needing to bring in the authorities.
A very similar case from last spring caught my eye as well. That of first grader, Joseph Anderson, who was arrested after having a tantrum during class because he was unhappy with how his eggs were decorated. Did I mention he is a special needs child? In my opinion, if law enforcement wants to respond to these kinds of calls, they should take the time to learn better ways of handling these situations with small children.
In another article I came across, a preschooler's drawing actually got her father arrested. In the picture, the little girl drew her father holding a gun. The child's teacher decided she didn't like what she saw in the child's drawing and called Family and Social Services. Incredibly enough, when Jessie Sansone went to pick his children up from school at the end of the day he was hand-cuffed, arrested, and strip searched in an attempt to locate the weapon!! Even more mind blowing than that is the fact that upon searching the family's home, the authorities did find a gun in the house. A toy gun, and the only one in the entire home.
Seriously?! I was pretty sure that the Bill of Rights stated that we have the right to own guns. Last time I checked that hadn't changed. Even if they had found a gun in the home, what if it had been a licensed, registered gun that is properly locked away for protection? Maybe he is a hunter and only uses it seasonally. Perhaps he is simply a gun collector. And why did no one ask the child about the drawing in question and what was being depicted in it? Whatever the case, the drawing did not depict him wielding the gun in a threatening manner or hurting anyone, therefore there was no reason whatsoever to involve the police.
#2 Bullying Amongst Students
Bullying is defined as a person enforcing their power over someone else. In movies, on TV shows and the news, and from day-to-day conversations bullying is often depicted as simple name-calling, pushing and/or hitting the victim, and stealing items such as lunch money or food. More recently, cyber bullying--using the internet and/or social media to harass, threaten, and intimidate other students--has been added to this list. While I know this is nothing new, it is still a major problem in our schools today.
Lately, I've seen more and more article in which students are being seriously injured due to bullying at school. For example, in Enid, Oklahoma a 14 year old student ended up needing to have surgery due to injuries sustained from an incident of bullying that happened at Longfellow Middle School in late April of this year. This is just horrible to think about! I couldn't imagine what either this kid or the parents are going through.
Cory Pingeton, an 18 year old high school student in Massachusetts, sustained broken bones around his eye, a swollen retina and other injuries from being sucker punched at school. A group of kids apparently thought he was talking about them behind their back. Even so, this kind of violent retaliation is uncalled for.
In another case of bullying, the end result wasn't simply broken bones and hurt emotions. A few weeks ago on April 29th in Minnesota, a 13 year old girl hung herself due to unbearable bullying. Rachel Ehmke is not the first student to commit suicide because of bullying (often referred to as bullycide)--and lately it seems to be a rising "trend" among kids who are being bullied--but she is the most recent to make headlines. Regardless, it is sad and shouldn't need to come to this kind of an act for the bullying to end.
#1 Teacher's Bullying Students!!??
Even worse than the athletic and arts program closures, school closures, and teacher lay-offs due to the extreme budget cuts our nation's education system has been faced with, is the problem of teachers who bully their students. Yes, you read that correctly. Teachers are bullying students in their own classrooms.
This is probably something that happens more often than I care to admit to myself; and until recently, it was something that had managed to stay out of the news, for the most part. Lately, however, I have read about more and more incidents of students being bullied by their teachers.
For example, there is the story of Christian Washington, a visually-impaired fourth grader, who was taped to his chair by his teacher during class! She seriously wrapped tape around this child's body and chair he was seated in simply because he was having troubles sitting still that day. I was disgusted by this article. Then I came across this one: Kelly Altenburg, New Jersey Teacher Accused Of Verbal Abuse, Put On Leave After Stuart Chaifetz Outrage. I was appalled by what I not only read but also by the video that accompanied this article. The short video clip led me to seek out Mr. Chaifetz's original video, which can be viewed below.
I can see how easy it is for teachers to bully special needs children who can't defend themselves or even tell on the teachers involved. Thinking back now, however, I can even recall a rather recent conversation with a friend of mine, in which he recalled being bullied by several teachers in the elementary school we attended together as children. I was shocked when he told me his experiences! Then there is the story of a New York math teacher, David Pecoraro, who was video-taped by a student while he swatted at and spit on a student!
It is absolutely unprofessional and unacceptable for teachers to be bullying their students, not to mention it is bad behavior modeling. No wonder student to student bullying has gotten so bad in recent years (not only because of the ease of access to the internet these days either)! When teachers bully their students they are creating terribly learning environments for their students. It is also extremely detrimental to the students' emotional development, self-esteem building, and hinders crucial child/adult trust building. This is terrible for any child to go through!
Just knowing that these things--excessive police force and bullying from all around--are happening in our school systems today, I am terrified to think of what my friend's children and my future children will have to endure just to get an education--provided that they are not all home-schooled.
For more information on bullying you can visit Stomp Our Bullying here.
A petition asking for "the swift implementation of federal anti-bullying laws" can be found here--I signed it immediately and I encourage you to do the same.