thoughts expressed in this review are purely mine as a private citizen
and do not speak for any bigger entity.
Quite frankly, as a parent, the reactions in the educational
world to Columbine and similar events scared me a lot more than the
initial acts of violence. I read accounts of kids being diverted into
the juvenile justice system for saying and doing things that would
have earned them detention when I was in school. Heck, I hear mature
adults say things that wouldn't pass the zero tolerance test.
At some point I went from scared to angry. I felt that many
schools were allowing or pressuring their administrators to abnegate
their in loco parentis responsibility. And innocent kids were paying
for this...with their futures.
When I connected zero tolerance to No Child Left Behind and Race
To The Top I went from angry to over-the-top irate. Schools are
pressured to reach increasingly unrealistic standardized test scores.
A lot of kids being expelled and/or shunted into the juvenile justice
system are students whose scores might depress their schools'
averages. The expression "low hanging fruit" came to mind.
Then I read Lockdown High: When The Schoolhouse Becomes A
Jailhouse by Annette Fuentes. I learned that I wasn't paranoid. In
fact I had only glimpsed the tip of the iceburg.
Fientes claims that violence in schools is falling. In fact,
for most of our kids, school is one of the safer places to be. So why
do many people feel that our children are in constant danger of being
gunned down in algebra?
Not surprisingly, the very rare events like the Columbine
shootings are given extensive media coverage. "If it bleeds, it
leads" is rule number one in journalism. But it's not just the
media. A wide range of sources influence people's fears. If a police
department offers free live shooter training, for example, it can lead
teachers and parents to see this rare event as imminent. And when
elected officials react to perceived fear with draconian measures, the
measures are seemingly vindicated.
Things happen for reasons. As Fuentes points out, many people
keeping the climate of fear alive are in it for the money. There is a
lot of money to be made in the selling of products ranging from high
tech security devices to drug testing kits. And these goods are
pushed with evangelic fervor to school boards and administrators.
Ironically all the purchases in the name of safety do not make
students more secure. In heavily policed schools arrests rise.
Minority students and students with disabilities are especially at
risk for being funneled into a school-to-prison pipeline.
Some of what is described in the book is truly horrific.
Commando style raids with police throwing, pushing, and handcuffing
students take place. School security officers are advised to walk
around "...in complete tactical equipment, with semi-automatic weapons
and five rounds of ammo.". It's enough to make a parent despair.
Fortunately Fuentes offers a glimmer of hope in a chapter entitled,
"Busting Out Of Lockdown High: Alternative Paths To Safe Schools."
On a more personal note: I had a fantastic Halloween, handing out
candy dressed as a witch with Joey cat playing the role of my familiar
and eating candy and watching X Files episodes with my son.
A big shout goes out to all the school administrators and school
boards who are resisting the pressure to turn their schools into
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