- The Washington Times - Monday, January 18, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

What happens when youths run amok and schoolhouses turn into danger zones?

Officials post signs that say “gun-free zones” and “drug-free zones.” They erect metal detectors and post unarmed security guards. They also make sure dozens of adults and teachers are on-site. All this happens in strong, middle-class neighborhoods with engaging police departments.

And it even happens in a spanking new school building, where there are above-par recreational facilities, and when the school is easily accessible and children are offered free public transportation.

Brookland Middle School in Northeast is a perfect example. Indeed, the village that embraces it, also named Brookland, is what many D.C. families and homeowners long for.



What happens when a school and its children have all that but still has a crime problem?

It earns a regrettable reputation as a tumultuous and unsafe learning environment.

A mother describes tumultuous Brookland this way in a Jan. 15 email: “As a Brookland Middle School Parent, I am requesting your immediate assistance in bringing order and safety to our school. There is a level of violence that occurs at the school on a daily basis. On yesterday there were 3 fights and a teacher got injured.”

The email addressed to public schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, also said: “Almost anytime, you can find packs of students randomly running the halls when they should be in class. The students curse at will and bullying of adults regularly occurs. More than 10 families have left the school because of the unsafe environment and more families are planning on leaving as soon as they can.”

Uh huh. Families flee and the violence multiplies.

There seem to be at least four separate silos: A parent/adult problem that leads to a lack of self-control problem; a teaching/learning problem; a public safety problem.

The parent/adult problem stems from teachers and schools becoming surrogate parents. Parents fail to discipline themselves and their children. Too many parents/adults expect everything to be taught in public schools, including how to have sex. Pretty soon, kids will be learning how to go green by growing and smoking marijuana. What a wonderful world that won’t be.

Schooling begins at home. Period.

As things stand, teachers can’t even be proper surrogate parents, hog-tied as they are to policies that prohibit them from disciplining kids. They cannot lay a hand on children. They cannot pull them away from a brawl or snatch students from running in the halls. Any form of what is misdefined as corporal punishment is verboten and mislabeled as abuse. Period.

The ludicrous universal pre-K programs means kids barely out of Pampers are sent to school and dumped into a learning environment with “adults” barely out of college themselves. Those teachers might — might — have the academic aspects and great expectations down pat, but what do they really and truly know about birthing young minds?

Small wonder parents are so willing to accept school suspension and expulsion, ankle GPS trackers and jail/prison time as appropriate actions. There’s no personal accountability, and the school system gets to keep all its public funding.

A couple of years ago, Miss Henderson began encouraging teachers to visit the homes of children in traditional D.C. Public Schools. The teachers seem to like the program, and some principals say it’s making a difference in their schoolhouses. That’s all well and good.

Still, the silos point to the arrested development of public schooling, as if renowned educator Booker T. Washington and NAACP co-founder W.E.B. DuBois were still debating whether black folk should learn marketable, self-sustaining skills or classical academics. Both are necessary, of course.

What we have going on at Brookland Middle School, though, is neither. The youngbloods are seemingly running the schoolhouse, and everything between their and home, wreaking havoc, as the Brookland mom pointed out, with “violence that occurs at the school on a daily basis.”

City officials keep renovating and building new school facilities as if the newer environments will improve teaching and learning.

Fearful teachers, like terrified children, automatically fall to their default positions when violence is all about. Either they flee or turn to violence to defend themselves.

Parents and other adults need to explain as much to Brookland Middle School parents.

After all, regardless of what signs and authorities say, children can be very — very — territorial.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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