By Rob Roper
There has been a reported uptick in bad behavior in Vermont’s public schools, highlighted this past week by incidents in Bristol, where a second-grader in the local elementary school destroyed a classroom. If you see the pictures, it is difficult to believe a 7-year-old could be capable of inflicting this kind of damage. And, according to multiple reports, this is not an isolated incident.
The Addison Independent printed a two-page long, bullet-pointed list of the property damage done, the mental and physical injuries to students and teachers, and the significant disruptions to the learning process: “Staff members have been bitten, spit on, kicked, punched, urinated on, hit by thrown objects, etc. They have also been verbally threatened by students. Some have had to lock themselves into a room in order to be safe.”
A story from WCAX details how a 6-year-old describe his day at school as, “I almost witnessed a murder,” and recounted to his mom how he saw an out-of-control student pin his friend behind a table to the point where the child could not breathe.
First, no child of any age should be forced by law to enter an environment where they do not feel safe — and apparently are not safe — on a daily basis, with no alternative unless their parents are wealthy enough to buy their way out of the system. Every parent deserves the right to say this is not right for my child, I am removing them from this toxic environment today, and the public resources provided by the taxpayers for the education of my child will follow my child to a functional learning environment.
Second, who thinks for a minute the children causing this damage are getting the care they need by being dropped off at the public school every morning? Clearly, they are not being well served either. It is not insensitive or discriminatory to point out the obvious fact that these kids need to be somewhere else, both for their own benefit and the benefit of the students and teachers being terrorized by their presence.
Administrators blame the rise in violent and antisocial behavior on the Covid lockdowns. A Bristol school board member was quoted in a Seven Days article, “The ongoing pandemic has impacted us in many ways, but it has disproportionately impacted our most vulnerable community members.” I’m sure there is truth in this. But, I’m also sure some of this disproportionate damage could have been avoided if we allowed parents to take their share of education dollars and use it to find some enriching opportunities for their children to participate in during the pandemic. Instead, we poured hundreds of millions of dollars into schools that weren’t open. This is the result of that decision.
Public schools operate on the myth that they can and do serve everyone. They can’t and they don’t. Nobody can. Certainly not in the same building. A school set up to meet the needs of a kid prone to outbursts that involve room vandalism on a scale that would astonish Keith Moon, and behavior that reportedly includes “slamming and kicking the door, yelling at [the teacher] to ‘open the f’ing door. Open the door, you f’ing b,’” while fellow students “were crying and screaming, and students were hiding under tables,” is not going to successfully meet the needs of the child who shows a quiet and diligent interest in learning fractions and grammar. Nor vice versa. It’s not fair to either to continue pretending otherwise.
Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Stowe.
4 thoughts on “Roper: Give parents and students the choice to leave violent classrooms”
Excellent points. Have school officials not considered their potential for legal liability when/if children are injured by policies that do not restrain violent actors in the schools’ care? God forbid other children are injured, but how can they not be? I know of teachers seeking retirement because THEY feel threatened by these idiotic policies (that precede COVID).
I attended (and later taught in) a public school in the inner city. School was the place where you had SOME safety. In Vermont, that has been reversed. This is absurd. It is also a grotesque breach of trust and common sense. Who would subject their children to such abuse and risk, if they had a choice? Public schools are now failing ALL children in Vermont.
It’s false to assume we need the government to “allow” parents to educate children. Do we need permission from master to give us choice in education? Parents own the kids, not the state. The question should be why do we allow the state to unconstitutionally steal our money to fund state education in the first place?
The other side of the problem is that teachers can’t restrain students for fear of being fired and sued. Problems started when corporal punishment was banned and children with physical and mental disabilities were mainstreamed. Schools need to be able to take action to restrain and remove out of control children for the safety of the other students.
‘These are students in crisis’: Vermont educators grapple with a spike in student misbehavior
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” Rutland Northeast Superintendent Collins said. “It’s almost like people have forgotten how to behave in school.”
It’s Lord of the Flies redux. How can anyone expect students to accept personal responsibility when the school system doesn’t? Misbehavior breeds misbehavior. Again, parents must take charge of their children’s education. Get those kids out of the public education chaos and anarchy now while you still can.
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