Whenever we hear people talk about the public schools it is almost always about school funding and how school districts need more and more of your hard earned money so that then, and only then, everything will be totally fine.
What we don’t hear about so much is the problem of bullying, vaping on school grounds, cyber harassment, violence being initiated between peers and wonton property destruction.
Along with low proficiency scores, our public schools need serious core changes so schools can once again be true environments of higher learning.
With the bleak outlook there is a silver lining, and that is the fact that meaningful changes can be made without spending even one more tax dollar. These changes start with school districts implementing zero tolerance policies against bullying, vaping, cyber harassment, violence and property destruction.
In the very recent past administrators and teachers have moved away from holding students accountable for their actions, which emboldens troubled or troublemaker students to stay that way. For example, last year I was sent a picture of the boys’ bathroom at Laconia High School with a trash can flipped over and stuffed into a toilet. Some unknown Seniors were given keys to the high school and a student found him or herself in hot water for saying a racial slur over the intercom in the office.
At the Laconia Middle School administrators don’t punish bullies, they simply educate them about how their actions make others feel. They choose to educate, over discipline for bad behavior. As good of an idea as it is to discuss wrongdoings, this isn’t a punishment. Education leads to understanding, punishment for offense ensures compliance. This is a huge problem folks, and it isn’t going to go away on its own.
Students who respect and revere their teachers and other applicable staff are students that go to school to learn and grow into productive adults. No one respects their teacher when they know they are hamstrung from dishing out any consequences for bad actions.
The second major issue is something that we find in too many school districts and neighborhoods and that is that there’s no relationship between the district and parents.
We know that there are troubled families, and absent parents that open up the initial cracks that children fall through before they even make it to first grade. Parents have a duty, a need to start loving their children, hugging them and nurturing their kids talents and interests.
Parents need to be more present on their child’s education journey than ever before, helping them study, reinforcing the fact that with hard work they can get into the best college and work in the most successful and high wage jobs in the world.
School districts are a huge part of the solution, if they choose to be.
If a student is known to be a bully the school district should be working with that student’s family utilizing programs that are already at their disposal to make every attempt to turn them around. Perhaps these programs help bring to light the issues that parents face, which in turn can lead into how the parents treat or neglect their children. One example is if a student has a substance abuse issue the school district should be taking action including involving the parents, law enforcement, counselors, medical professionals. What they should not do, is to simply let things play out. These moments in a child’s upbringing are crucial to their development. Allowing them to simply waste it away on drugs, or allowing them to act out, destroy public property, become severe distractions for the other students. We can’t allow it, and we can’t allow the inaction to continue to take place.
Through my discussions with a number of parents, I find that too many times issues with our students stay under the radar, parents are not made aware or involved, or are swept to the side and kept quiet because the students’ emotional feelings are held on a higher pedestal than actually correcting their behavior, and ensuring they know how their actions affect others. Their feelings are paramount above anything else, including helping them to see their worth.
Parents must get involved, and the schools must make drastic efforts to include them in every aspect. This will take a change of tactics, something that will take a great effort. Through meaningful action we can see meaningful change. We can finally see proficiency improve. We can begin to see a culture of common peace and understanding and peer to peer interactions will become much better. Less hostility, less fighting, more raising each other up.
Change starts with administrators, and ends with parents. The best part yet, it can all be done for free. Changing our tactics costs nothing but our collective ego.
If you agree with me, stand up and speak out. Unity will be the only way our kids will be able to get through this and become good citizens, fair people, peaceful and thoughtful people.
Be the change you want to see. Our kids’ future depends on it.
Representative Richard Littlefield