I teach in a smaller inner city district. The district my high school is in has about 15,000 students. There is a lot of talk about education, shootings and school violence, but allow me to offer a glimpse inside the classroom from someone who has been there for years. After all, I’m the one dealing with the corruption, lack of safety, and absolutely no structure on a daily basis. I was told by a principal “If someone wants to come into your classroom and kill you than that’s what he or she is going to do and there is nothing I can do about it.” So here’s the truth about public education, and before you start commenting, consider: what do you really know about schools in America? Schools have changed a considerable amount since the rise of social media. So before you go on a rant, try being a substitute teacher in a city school for a month. It will open your eyes.
The million-dollar question everyone is trying to figure out is who’s to blame for school shootings. Well, look in the mirror, because most of us play a part. That’s right — students, parents, superintendents, principals, the media and yes, even me as a teacher. One thing that is not to blame is the gun. As easily as it can take a life, it could save life. In case you haven’t noticed, gun free zones don’t work. If a person wants to commit an evil act, then rules don’t matter.
Students are arguably the most to blame for school shootings. Notice that I didn’t refer to them as kids or children. High school students are young adults and are only a few years away from us classifying them as adults. They are not innocent and can be held accountable for their actions, sometimes even being charged as an adult in certain cases. Students spend ungodly amounts of time on Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Tinder. The amount of bullying that happens on these platforms is enough to drive someone to madness. Some students are bullied so much that they are taken out of school, or take matters in to their own hands.
Bullying is used a lot in our culture. The bullying I am referring to is mental and physical harassment. Students will make other students’ lives a living hell for their pleasure. Most students who are bullied snap in one way or another. I had a student this year in such a situation; the student reached the point of becoming suicidal and had tried to take his life more than once. It got so bad that he posted the names of the students who were bullying him and threatened them. He was removed from the school, in a quiet manner. The students who bullied him received no punishment and are onto their next victim. Bullying is a silent killer and one motivator for shootings.
Another issue is many parents are refusing to parent, and are raising irresponsible and feral children. I have called parents to discuss their students behavior only to be told, “that’s not my job and you should learn how to do your job.” Parenting is the most important job a person will ever have. I can tell which students have effective parents, and which parents send their child to school for babysitting by the end of the first day of school. Simply put, parents aren’t parenting; instead they’re producing young adults who think they can do anything they want. The kids grow up believing consequences don’t apply to them. These students have no respect for authority, private or public property, and don’t care about their behavior. I have students tell me they don’t care about anything…don’t care if they fail, get arrested, or even die. Nothing matters to them, and they will do whatever they want. In my classroom I have had a chair thrown at me, death threats, several fights break out, and I have been referred a******, b****, c***, f*****, mother******, s***head, puta, and my favorite, racist.
Another trend I have seen is to teach children that all white people are out to get them. I have been called a racist because I asked a student to get a pencil out. I have never; I repeat never, seen one instance of a minority student experiencing ANY form of racism in my years teaching. This falls back to parenting. This also contributes to the climate of schools, and the ability of the faculty and administration to do their jobs. Simply put, we cannot do our jobs if we are painted as a hostile, evil person because of our skin color. It undermines our authority and creates a situation where students are encouraged to invent or exaggerate situations that happen to avoid homework, tests or excuse behavioral problems. How is a student expected to listen to me or learn in my class when he has been convinced I am out to get him or hate him? It may be politically expedient to encourage that belief for some people, but this is one of the consequences of that political theater.
The next group of people to blame for shootings are superintendents and principals. Let’s talk about my own superintendent for a minute. She is in her 70’s and very much out of touch with what is going on in the schools, in the city, and the challenges facing teachers and students today. Two years ago she gave herself a 13% raise while threatening to take away teachers 2% cost of living adjustment. She has never come to my school and addressed any faults. She has made no effort to talk with any teachers at my building. She also appoints all of the school board members. Not one of members of the school board has been elected in to office. She has personally hand picked everyone of her minions, whose sole function seems to be rubber stamping her agenda. She approves teacher contracts to be released in April, giving teachers one week to sign them. If you are not a teacher, then you wouldn’t know that this is a shady way to trap teachers into not leaving. All that matters to her is state testing, accreditation, and graduation rate. Notice that safety isn’t part of that list. Her solution to the safety problem was to hire a safety personnel person. If the principals want to keep their job, then they have to march lock-step with the administration. This type of corruption goes on in many schools across America. Learning, student welfare and teacher safety are last on the list; the only thing that matters is how the school looks on paper so they can continue expanding their budget.
Principals contribute to the problems with bullying and violence because they don’t punish students, and thus student behavior is uncontrollable. The only punishment that students can receive at my school is in-school suspension or out of school suspension. It is near impossible to be expelled. Students treat both of these as a joke. Therefore, students do whatever they want because there is no consequences for what they do.
This past year a student brought a loaded handgun to school. He took a picture with it in a bathroom, bragging, and posted it on social media. The principal quietly gave him 10 days of out of school suspension and only told his teachers. No parents were notified, and no other teachers were told the student was a potential threat. As word spread, teachers threatened to walk out if he came back. After that the principals had a meeting and opened it with ‘lets address the rumor.’ Let’s be clear, it wasn’t a rumor and it took teachers threatening a walkout in order for the student to be expelled. I can promise you that this is far from an isolated incident in America.
Schools try to push things under the rug instead of addressing issues and holding students accountable. My district spent millions on top of millions on workers’ compensation claims in one year. The number one reason being teachers separating fights between students, the second on the list for workers compensation didn’t even come close in dollar amount. There are almost daily fights. The safety personnel individual does not believe in expelling students who continually get in fights. He stated ‘we can solve this problem by talking to the kids.’ This is absolutely insane, and yet again shows students they won’t be held accountable for their actions. The school is teaching these children there are no consequences. I and other teachers know this is merely creating a pipeline to prison for many of these students. or at best creating dysfunctional adults incapable of functioning in a free society.
Schools give a false sense of security. Everyone wants to believe that schools are a safe place because there is a resource officer, a gun free zone sign, and you supposedly have to be buzzed in to enter. The reality is, students let people into my school building all the time. Teachers let in delivery people who they don’t know. My keys cannot open most doors in the building, but there has long been a lax, unenforced policy about restricting access to the building from the outside. Teachers and school resource officers are forbidden to inspect bags and or search a student for suspected weapons. Better yet, our student to security personnel ratio is a thousand to one.
Our plan for a school shooter is to hide in a corner of the classroom and wait to die. The only “weapon” I have is a pair of safety scissors. During the handful of safety meetings my school has had in the last year, the only response teachers have gotten to safety concerns is, “We are looking into it.” The cruel reality is that, in my opinion, it will take an attack approaching 9/11 in scale on a school for anyone to take this seriously, stop focusing on faking test scores and graduation rates, and start focusing on the violent and unsafe atmosphere many school administrations, parents and students have created. America, get used to school shootings and seeing crying parents on TV. This is our reality and it’s not going to change any time soon.