Spunky’s Blog entry today comments on the surprise “safety drill” at Lee Middle School and High School, in Wyoming, Michigan.
She treated the subject really well from a Christian perspective. I recommend reading it, even if you aren’t Christian. She’s one smart whip.
I’m not sure what kind of neighborhood these children live in. Perhaps having pat-downs and and riot police scouting their community is common enough to be a necessary item to teach. But here’s what I find particularly disturbing about what happened.
1) According to the article, the parents had no idea this was going to happen. (In fact, the police didn’t even know what they were supposed to be doing, or that the parents hadn’t been told.) I put this right up there with sex ed and drug awareness programs – the parents not only have the right to know about this in advance, but they should have enough warning to be able to have their children opt-out of the drill.
2) Only some of the parents were upset about this. The school basically allowed the police to come in and traumatize the kids “for practice” on what to do in case they are ever in a situation where this would happen to them. Has our country become so used to police infringements and government control that we think that practicing this kind of thing is an important preparation for life? What are the odds of any of us reading this blog being involved in a riot-police safety check? Why do kids need this experience?
3) It seems obvious to me that this was an exercise in control. For whatever reason, the school felt it necessary to make it very clear who was in control and that they have the power to find anyone who might be doing something wrong. “Be good Johnny, cuz you never know when police in riot gear are going to come to the school and find out your secrets.”
4) What if they had found something on one of the kids? What if one of the kids refused to do the “drill”? Is this something that the kids had a choice? I doubt they would have been quietly led to the library to wait out the drill. But in the off chance that it was an “optional” trauma, were the kids alerted to their option not to participate?
5) I want to know who decided to have this kind of drill. Was it the principal? Was it the school board? The faculty? Who has so much power that they can bring in a force of police, hold some kids against the wall and search them? Who thought this was a good idea? And why are they employed anywhere in the school system.
The drill, itself, is not implicitly a bad thing. Depending on the kids involved, the neighborhood they live in and the experiences they are likely to have in their lives, it might be a good thing to know how it works.
But if that’s the case, this kind of thing should be an opt-in program. This kind of program is something the parents should know about, the kids should know about and have the opportunity to say “no, this isn’t important to us. We plan to never have to worry about police in riot gear coming to our neighborhood. And if they do, we’ll deal with it then.”
Perhaps this wasn’t about the kids at all. Maybe this process wasn’t for the kids, it was for the staff and faculty. Maybe it was for them to know how the process works. And if that’s the case, I’m even more disturbed.
At what point do we take our prisons and our schools and run them in the same way?
This is a one-time event (well, at least I hope it is!), so my rant about all this isn’t to say that we’re all doomed to public school turning into prison. What I hope is that when things like this happen (and they will), that parents don’t put up with it. Don’t just be “an upset parent”. Get the PTA together, go to board meetings, write letters, make a big stink. This kind of behavior on the schools part gives them way too much power, and in their attempt to try to show who has the power, parents need to remind them that parents have the power. It is their schools, it’s the students’ schools. It’s not the teachers’.
What if your child was at a neighbor’s house, and their dad, as a “real-life” lesson, decided to have his police friend come in and pull this, just to show the kids what’s it’s really like, just in case?
No school district or principle should have this kind of power.
Homeschool critics are so worried about what might happen to little Johnny if he isn’t being watched at school. Why aren’t those same critics off their rocker with anger about the way that a whole bundle of kids are sometimes treated in school? Why aren’t those same critics villainizing public school when stuff like this happens? They do it to homeschoolers – lump us in a group and say that we need to be more regulated because ‘stuff happens’. Well, far more ‘stuff’ happens in school, and those critics who so proudly uphold their worry about homeschoolers don’t seem to be all that concerned about public school.
I don’t think public school is bad. These kinds of events are, granted, rare. Thank goodness. But they do happen. And when they do happen, we can’t be OK with it. We have to let the people who have control of these things know that we’re not.