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Is this the new normal?

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 

I am a former homeschooling mom -- my kids entered public school for the first time this year.  This is not a rant against public schools, I am looking for honest assessment.  We are considering returning to homeschooling after learning more about our public school environment.  


My kids are in 2nd and 4th grades.  The local elementary school has been fine for them, not great, but decent enough.  What concerns me is the upcoming move to middle and high schools.  



What worried me:


We recently had a high school teacher arrested for sleeping with 4 students.  He is now in jail and will be for a long, long while. 


There have been felony assault charges filed twice in the high school (student vs student).  A friend was involved in pulling apart one of the fights and gave a bloody account.  The boy being beaten was hospitalized with multiple broken bones in his face and a severe concussion. 


There is an armed policeman on the high school campus at all times.   


There was an unloaded gun brought to school by an elementary student (not the school my kids go to). 


Our elementary school was locked down after an armed man was seen on campus.  The man was not found, but several students told similar accounts of a man dressed a certain way carrying a gun.


These are just the accounts I know of -- a friend is a detective with our local police department and she hints that there are many, many more incidents just like this.  Really?  I am freaking out a bit.  She says it is just the 'new normal' and not to get so worked up by it.  


These schools are my only option.  There is a very expensive private school, but it only goes to 8th grade.  There is a Catholic school -- we are not Catholic and from I understand, it is not much better.  


My choices feel very limited.  There is talk of a charter middle school, but that is no guarantee.  


I just don't see sending my kids on to middle and high school here.  These are not safe schools.  And these are just this issues of safety.  The educational issues are another long, long list.  


I would move, but I am underwater on my house.  I cannot sell and don't really know that other schools are going to be much better.  


So, it this the 'new normal'?  Do other parents deal with these issues?  And how?  How do I talk to my kids about handguns in school?  

post #2 of 30

It's not particularly "new" and actually, I have felt my kids have been safer on campus than in years past largely because adults are required to take what kids say seriously now. When I was in high school we had a teacher arrested for sleeping with a student, we had a kid commit suicide on the principals door, there seemed to be fights all the time. I admit though, I never felt unsafe as really those incidents involved a small section of students that I didn't associate with. This was in a smaller high school in a nice middle class neighborhood. I worked a day camp in college where a 6-year-old from a very nice neighborhood brought a gun in his backpack wanting to show it to other kids. None of this stuff is particularly new.


In contrast, my middle schooler nor my high schooler have similar stories as of yet. They do have security on campus. They do have cameras everywhere but outside the occasional expulsion of a kid smoking pot in the bathrooms, no big issues. There have been lock downs but never involving anything on campus (our schools lock down when ANYTHING in the community happens lol.)


I can't comment on your area schools but in ours, I wouldn't say much has changed. 



post #3 of 30

Yikes!  I would be freaking out too!  I don't think that is normal, but I guess that it depends on where you live.  I'm in a fairly "safe" area and not a big city.  My oldest just started high school this year and my youngest middle school.  My youngest attends a choice only middle school so I think that it is not totally representative of a typical middle school b/c parents are very involved.


At my oldest's middle school, there were some problems of the sort you mention, but not to that extent.  The things I recall in the three years she was there:


- a pregnant middle schooler

- a possible drug issue where a kid brought prescription drugs to school and shared them and wound up with kids being taken to the hospital (this one I am not sure on and may have been kid rumor)

- a kid who lit a fire in the trash can in the bathroom


I think that I can pull up records of expulsions and suspensions for my local schools including general causes (i.e. -- weapons, etc.).  I'm wondering if you can do the same to see if some of the schools are safer than others.



post #4 of 30

That a MILD list OP- it's the NEW normal here and then some!


We are talking in my area about sort of small, some even rural and we certainly have things up on you!.......it makes most of us sick around here----here are just a few


http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120222/NEWS90/202220330/-1/NEWS01  (only four teachers that slept with students)


http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=7206450 (nude photos)


http://articles.mcall.com/2012-01-31/news/mc-bangor-teacher-sex-with-students-20120131_1_superintendent-patricia-mulroy-bangor-teacher-teen-students (heroin overdoes/selling to students)


http://articles.mcall.com/2012-03-13/news/mc-catasauqua-principal-charged-porn-20120313_1_bruce-l-krasley-videos-and-images-educator-plans (principal with child porn)


http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2012/01/bethlehem_men_accused_of_posse.html (janitor sexual charges)


http://articles.mcall.com/2011-12-14/news/mc-allentown-dieruff-taser-lawsuit-20111212_1_taser-allentown-officer-allentown-police  (we take care of unruly students!)


this is all recent and within the same general area and I didn't link all of it! and our schools are great on restricting personal freedoms of students and faculty AND getting law suites that they end of loosing and costing $$$$$$$$$$--it's real encouraging irked.gif and the NEW NORMAL here!

post #5 of 30
No, its not. My kids haven't dealt with anything like that.
post #6 of 30

We have a rural K-12 school. I've been here for 18 years. About a dozen years ago a 28-year-old teacher revealed her relationship with an 18-year-old newly graduated student. She resigned from teaching, he went off to university, they got married five years later and now have two lovely children. That's the only slightly controversial issue the school has dealt with in the almost two decades I've lived here. There's been some cyber-bullying, the odd playground scrap between 7- or 8-year-olds. Nothing more.


That being said, if you live in an area where school-related violence seems common, just remember to try to keep it in perspective. Life is not 100% safe out of school either. If, for example, there's a school-aged population of 60,000 in your area, and there have been four firearms incidents in the past year, one would need to put that into a more general context. That's about 64 million student hours. Would the odds of firearms incidents be lower if those kids spent the same 64 million hours outside of school? 



post #7 of 30

I went to a dozen or so schools as a kid and all these things (and more) were happening back then (80s and 90s) - and my mom put some effort into finding "good [public] schools" each time we moved.   I lived in mostly suburban and rural areas but sometimes went to city schools.  Anyhow, I went to schools where we had to have clear backpacks [so they could see you weren't bringing weapons or drugs], neighboring schools had metal detectors.  We had cops on campus from 7th grade.  As for the city we live in now, this is also the norm and has been for decades.  It's a big issue here and poverty and lack of resources play a big role in it.  I think that, as parents, we have to get as involved as we possibly can and are allowed to.


As for handguns in schools - this is advice I recieved and it has served me well in life.  Leave the area immediately and tell an adult.  Don't talk to the person (kid, adult) who has it.  Don't engage at all.  Ditto if it is an unattended weapon.  Basically treat it like "I smell a gas leak"  Don't investigate.  Leave the area immediately, and tell an adult.  Period.  [snip - extraneous]


I think the issue is of snitching, right?  Kids don't want to tell if they see a friend with a weapon. [snip]


A knife, I would say, tell if someone says they are going to use it.  A gun, tell no matter what, because guns can do so much damage, intentionally or not.  I would encourage my DD not to think of it as snitching, but as doing the right thing to help prevent violence, as not being a bystander.  But I would emphasize that getting involved by arguing or trying to persuade the person with the weapon generally only escalates things.  When weapons are involved any person of limited size and strength, any person who is not bulletproof or otherwise trained in de-escalation.... is wise to seek some kind of help.  Being the only person to say, "Hey, should you really have that here," etc,.... that draws the wrong kind of attention.  "Oh cool," is the right response if that is what everyone else is saying.  Then you skip out and tell an adult.


**Ah, I see, there was an adult at one of the elementary schools.  That's hard.  How do you explain that there are people in the world who harm others?  It's good that the school locked down.  I agree with the poster that perhaps the seriousness that the school responded with is a good sign.  We had a school here shut down recently because a mandated reporter thought that they might have sen a man with an assault weapon, and it turned out to be some other harmless item.  But the system the school had in place worked, and if it had actually been a man with a gun, the system would have kept people safer.


***I think Miranda is also correct.  School related violence  in the schools I went to - honestly, in many cases, kids weren't always safer at home....  I say that of my own home as well.  I had problems in school but if I hadn't had problems at home, I might have been able to deal with them better.  And yet, my parents did give me some foundations so I think that I got along better than kids who had even less going for them at home.



In the end it probably depends on your district and the specifics of your area.


sorry for the one million edits, lol.  NAKing and thinking about this.

Edited by cyclamen - 4/2/12 at 1:06pm
post #8 of 30

We live in a rural area in a isolated part of the state. There are only 2 public middle schools and 1 high school here. These things happen here as well, sometimes in lesser amounts, but we've had incidents here and there. 

post #9 of 30

I attended an urban public high school in the late 1980s, and while there were occaisional incidents--mostly fights, some drugs--they didn't define my educational experience.  Life at this same high school is quite different today: police officers and security cameras are present, and I recently read that parole officers soon will be stationed in the high school as well.  If I still lived in this city, the question would not simply be, "Are my children safe?" but also, "What is the effect of spending every day under so much surveillance?"  I personally can't imagine knowing that my every move was being recorded, or passing armed police in the halls. Unfortunately, these factors do seem to be the new normal in large urban areas. 

post #10 of 30

I have three children who are in 6th, 4th and 2nd grade.  This has not at all been my experience. I live downtown(ish) in a large Canadian city. The schools here aren't the best, but they're getting better, mostly due to parental involvement. I have heard very little about anything of this nature in our city, or any other city nearby.


Question: Is it possible for you and other parents to look into starting your own school?  My oldest daughter (local school goes to 6th grade) was just registered at an "alternative" school today which has the funding and backing of the city's school board. They have to adhere to the guidelines and curriculum of all the other schools, but it was started by a group of parents who wanted, well, an alternative to regular public school. Or, how about reclaiming the schools in your area? I was concerned about the public schools here, and someone said something very true to me that I hadn't thought about. If everyone in our area (currently undergoing significant gentrification) sends their children to other schools out of cachement, how will the schools in our own neighbourhood ever get any better?  I realize that this is lofty ambition, but you still have a few years before having to worry about the middle school/high school issue, and if parental involvement and positive initiatives (whatever you might find them to be in your area) truly do make a difference, all those children who benefit will be the same children who will be attending those bad upper level schools in the future.


I know I am oversimplifying, but we have to start somewhere.

post #11 of 30

I don't think there is anything "new" about it.  I was in jr. high and high school in the late 1970's in a mid-size city with good schools.  There were fights and bullying/beatings in the middle school (I know -- I was the one getting beaten up).  In both middle and high school there were drugs, suicides, weapons, fights, inappropriate relationships.  The difference was that there wasn't security, teachers and administrators dismissed most of it as "kids will be kids", there wasn't a procedure for lock-downs so there wasn't a way to stop people on campus or protect the students if something were happening.  There wasn't even a way to tell if an adult on campus was "supposed to be there" or not.  I have a DS in middle school this year and I feel like he is much safer now that I was then.


post #12 of 30
Thread Starter 

Wow, you guys.  I am in tears here.  I see that I have been very naive.  I grew up in Los Angeles and was surrounded by extreme violence in high school.  Metal detectors at every entrance and my math teacher was murdered in his classroom.  Somehow, I thought by leaving the big city I would also be leaving the violence.  I see that it is everywhere.  Coming to this small town seemed like a way to a gentler childhood for my kids.  


About starting a school -- I know the man who trying to start the charter school -- there is a shocking amount of work to be done to start a school.  I could see myself doing it, but right now with 4 kids 10-and-under, it is difficult to see how I could make time.  Maybe when they are older.  


About being more involved -- I have been to many, many volunteer meetings at school.  There are 3 parent volunteer organizations and they are all working non-stop in the elementary school.  I have done twice a week tutoring this year to help supplement the math program.  I am at the school at least 3 times a week with tutoring, or proctoring the playground during recess, or helping with fun projects on Friday afternoons.  I work harder now than I did when the kids were schooling at home. 


I guess that is what really makes this difficult -- I am working hard, other parents are working hard, the teachers are working hard, the police are working hard....but it all feels so exhausting and I am sad and burned out by it.  


I truly don't know which direction to take.  Homeschooling has its drawbacks and I can't say that it was perfect for all of my kids.  

post #13 of 30
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by cyclamen View Post

As for handguns in schools - this is advice I recieved and it has served me well in life.  Leave the area immediately and tell an adult.  Don't talk to the person (kid, adult) who has it.  Don't engage at all.  Ditto if it is an unattended weapon.  Basically treat it like "I smell a gas leak"  Don't investigate.  Leave the area immediately, and tell an adult.  Period.  [snip - extraneous]


This is good.  Thank you.  I'll talk to the kids more about guns in school.  The school has done a couple of big rallies against bullying and have repeatedly told the kids that telling on bullies is not snitching, but 'reporting'.  As in 'report' bullying words or behavior to a grown up.  My son has really taken this lesson to heart.  He has been very sensitive to bullying whether directed at him or someone else.  'Reporting' a weapon will resonate with the kids.  

post #14 of 30
This was normal in the 80s where I went to school, but it is not normal where my kids go to school now. It depends on where you live.
post #15 of 30

Ruthie, it must be so discouraging to find that the very thing you wanted to protect your kids is present in a place you thought was safe.  It's any parent's nightmare, I think.  And it sounds like for you it may be more sensitive than for some parents because of your own experiences.  Your sense of exhaustion comes through in your post, and I'm sorry that this is the situation you and your family are finding yourself in. 


It seems to me that this is something you very likely have some childhood trauma surrounding*, and maybe you've already considered this, but it might be be difficult to sort out clearly which are issues of absolute safety, which are issues of perceived safety (also important), and what things are perhaps triggering for you but not necessarily dealbreakers for you (and which things perhaps are or should be dealbreakers).  At least, this has been my experience when it comes to issues and situations which are close to traumatic situations that I experienced as a child and young adult.  I'm not suggesting that your kids' school system is safe/unsafe as only you can know that.  But if you can sort out those things, you might (might) be able to experience some more peace and find the right path for your family.   I hope that doesn't sound too corny, but it sounds like you are really doing all you can do as a parent working with a school system, as a person who, like all people, has a limit to what they can do in a day. 


*Having a teacher be killed in your school sounds like it would seriously interfere with a person's ability to feel safe in their school, and if that happened, it can't have been the only seriously violent incident.  We had bullying, fights, and the occasional gun in some of my schools (and some of the bullying was wretched and hate crimey) but no one was ever killed there.  So I can't even imagine what it would have been like if someone had. 

post #16 of 30

I went to one of the largest suburban high school (in the country) in NY in the 80's.  We had a few fights, a few security guards, some drugs and my math teacher dies of AIDS.  But as a poster upthread said - it did not define my educational experience.  We now live in one of Money Magazine's best places to live and one of Gallup's healthiest cities.  And there is a police car parked outside of my kid's HS.  And there was one in front of their middle school.  And there have been fights, and some drugs.  And they are getting a really good education.  Some kids just choose not to whether it's that they haven't been taught to appreciate what they have been given, they have stuff going on at home, whatever...

post #17 of 30

I don't think it's the new normal. Partly, I think we're more conscious of issues than we were 25 years ago, and so schools are more proactive. When I was in high school 30 years ago (yeah, I'm old), kids were doing drugs. They were drinking to excess. One troubled kid lit a fire in the auditorium. And this was at a good Catholic high school with involved parents. Teenagers, especially, are prone to breaking rules, not thinking ahead and sometimes not being model citizens. My mother  used to say "Nothing we did when we were 16 should be held against us for life." It's still true.


Also, people in certain professions have very skewed senses of the world. Police officers see a lot of crime, so yes, they're thinking that crime is really bad. Nationally, crime statistics have been going down. Similarly, I have a friend who's an ER physician. Guess who's the most safety-conscious/paranoid parent I know? He sees a lot of things that most of us don't. For him, it's not a possibility, it's a fact, even if it's rare.


Our kids' elementary school is incredibly safe. They do a great job of monitoring the students, working on bullying and really watching the kids. (And we got to a school with a very very high poverty rate -- 80%). I sometimes think that bullying/drugs are worse at the higher income schools. Ds goes to middle school in a higher income school next year, and I'm more worried about him there, but not to excess. I know a fair number of high schoolers and none of them feel unsafe at high school.


As for the news stories of teachers gone bad. Think about it this way:

What if I were to tell you that 99.9% of the teachers were moral, responsible, upstanding people who were doing their best to help their students. How would you feel about your school then?

What if I were to tell you that 7200 teachers a year in the US were caught committing a crime (from drugs to having sex with their students). How would you feel about your school then?


Now, what if I tell you, I'm talking about the same numbers. There are 7.2 million teachers in the US from K-12. If 0.1% of them go bad, that's 7200 teachers. Yes, that number is too high. But in perspective, 99.9% is a pretty good number right? It means that your kids' chances of coming across a truly criminal teacher are slim indeed.


Just remember, the plural of anecdote is not data. I get really upset with news outlets and other sources that fearmonger. Our society is demonstrably safer today than it was 30 years ago, and yet we feel much more unsafe.

post #18 of 30

Yeah, that sounds like the "old normal" to me. The first famous school shooting happened in 1999, and I know that wasn't the first one--it's just the one that sparked a massive moral panic, in addition to a higher death count than normal. (Actually, I tried to look up some dates of earlier school shootings, and it goes back to like 1764. There are more listed more recently, but I'm pretty sure that's because there are more people, more schools and more news coverage.)


I think the fact that you have a friend who works in law enforcement might be giving you a different perspective than you'd normally have. (You also mentioned "a friend" earlier in the post. Is that someone who works at the school?)


It's interesting that of the five worries you listed, one was a normal security measure rather than an incident, one was an example of a school handling an incident correctly, and another was an incident wherein no one got hurt and you didn't mention the school's response at all... yet you mention wanting another school, and someone else even mentioned starting a new school. But what improvements are you looking for? Is it actually any safer to not have an armed police officer at the school?


The main thing I'd worry about is obnoxious zero-tolerance policies oppressing your kids. Teen girls forced to undergo a strip searched because another student said she had ibuprofen in her undies, little kids like yours getting suspended because Mom packed a plastic table knife with their lunch, etc etc.

post #19 of 30




I guess that is what really makes this difficult -- I am working hard, other parents are working hard, the teachers are working hard, the police are working hard....but it all feels so exhausting and I am sad and burned out by it.  


I truly don't know which direction to take.  Homeschooling has its drawbacks and I can't say that it was perfect for all of my kids.  


both will have drawback and NOTHING will ever be perfect!





The main thing I'd worry about is obnoxious zero-tolerance policies oppressing your kids. Teen girls forced to undergo a strip searched because another student said she had ibuprofen in her undies, little kids like yours getting suspended because Mom packed a plastic table knife with their lunch, etc etc.




what bothers us the most and was the factor for our decision to HS, is our schools are not like the "REAL WORLD" the added stress is sooooooo great, not to mention other things that do not function as the real world does


I know some but MORE people that do not need to enter into a metal detector to work each day, that do not face the drug issues to the degree out local school have, constant police presence everyday, etc  - for us, we choose to HS because we want a more REAL life for us and our child---YES things that happen in schools also happen outside but I would hope my child chooses not to work in a stress filled environment but one that has some shred of civility I no longer see in our local school environment


not all areas our the same- just what we have and our decision - for us, this is not was use to be, it is the new normal 

post #20 of 30
Originally Posted by Ruthiegirl View Post

There is an armed policeman on the high school campus at all times.   



This is normal, but I think it's a good thing.


My kids are high school aged and attend a small private school. The extreme events you listed are not typical, we have other smaller (more normal) problems.


The stories that I hear about the *good*  public high schools in town are so diverse that I've come to the conclusion that the same high school can be a completely different place for 2 different kids. For one, it is a tough place of fighting or drugs, and for another, it's a great opportunity to do amazing things. The experience that a child has at a specific school has a lot to do with the child and the choices they make.


I don't think that teachers sleeping with students is either new or normal. Back in 1979, my 8th grade social student teacher was fired for having sex with one of  my classmates.


I know and really like my kids' teachers. I have so much respect for teachers who work so hard to reach our kids and get so little back, either financial or appreciation.


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