North Mecklenburg high school, the nearest high school to my house, was shut down yesterday because some kids got in a fight. This is the kind of thing that drives parents to private schools. Now, my kids are in a private school, and one thing that creeped me out a bit when we were visiting the school was the emphasis on how “safe” the school is — the clear implication being that your kids won’t be safe in the public schools. Safety was the least of our concerns when we chose our kids’ school: we were much more concerned about student-teacher ratios, curriculum, and opportunities for involvement in the arts.
But for many parents, “safety” is what it’s all about. Safety from what? Kids are going to get in fights. Generally they’re not going to kill each other, but I doubt any school can keep kids from getting into fights, and most fights don’t result in serious injury — the fights at North Meck yesterday certainly didn’t. Arguably, it’s more dangerous to give your kid the keys to the car than it is to send her to school.
What bugs me about the “safety” issues at public schools isn’t so much what the kids are doing, but what the parents are doing. Yesterday at North Meck, hundreds of kids called their parents on cell phones (which they weren’t supposed to have at school) and asked them to come pick them up. Hundreds of parents showed up at the school, which was in lockdown, and banged on the doors, demanding to see their kids. The administration was overwhelmed — not by the kids, but by their parents. If any parent showed up at school that day, it shouldn’t have been to take the kid home, but to take her cell phone home.
I went to a public high school, and there were fights all the time. Nobody ever called their parents to be taken home, and if they had, the parents would have told them to stay at school. The fights were generally between thugs or jocks and didn’t involve the kids who were there to learn, so life went on. I doubt things are much different at North Meck today — what’s changed is the parents.
I suspect many of those parents will remove their kids from North Meck permanently and enroll them in “safe” private schools. I just hope not too many of them will show up at my kids’ school. We don’t want 'em.