If you were shocked by the accusations made by a now former Green Bay schoolteacher about the abhorrent behavior of kids at Washington Middle School that led all the local newscasts last night, I encourage you to visit a school more often. If you don't have time to visit a school, you could also request copies of local police call logs and match up the number of times the addresses of public schools are listed in them. Or you could purchase a police scanner or download the multiple scanner apps on line to listen through your phone and keep track of the calls yourself.
Every day in our listening area there are reports of "student out of control", "students fighting", "student making threats" or "student walked away from the school" requiring law enforcement's attention. And that doesn't cover the numbers of incidents where teachers break up altercations or are involved in subduing students.
Not all incidents are as extreme as what the Green Bay teacher described: boys grabbing the butts and breasts of female students and staff, boys exposing themselves to girls and staff, simulated sex on lunchroom tables, verbal abuse of staff by students, threats to attack the school and violent outbursts when cellphones are confiscated from students--plus the usual complaints about drug dealing and usage in the school itself. Did I mention this was at a middle school--where kids are 12-15 years old?
I've mentioned here before that the rigid structure of schooling that those of us over the age of 35 experienced is long gone. Today's classrooms and study areas are more like places to "hang out"--and teachers try to be students' friends--not lords of discipline. Add to that the insistence of placing children with serious behavioral and mental issues in mainstream programs and opposition to having uniformed police present in schools because it "triggers certain student populations" and you have the perfect recipe for the inmates running the asylum.
The carefully crafted--and much delayed--response from the Green Bay School District was as weak as you might expect. Here's what Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld (or more likely the district's attorney) had to say:
In early May, the Board of Education and administration became aware of the growing staff concerns similar to those shared by Ms. Westcott in June. Upon learning of these concerns, the Board of Education and District Administration took the concerns very seriously. In response, the following occurred:
• We held a meeting with staff.
• Mr. Hoh increased his time at Washington to provide daily on-site support.
• Two District office administrators were deployed daily to Washington Middle School until the end of the school year. Additional staff resources were also provided.
• A second meeting was held in June with Associate Superintendent John Magas, Director of Pupil Services Vicki Bayer and myself after Ms. Westcott’s address to the Board. The purpose of this second meeting was to listen to staff concerns following the infusion of the additional resources and to continue to strategize solutions. Staff reported concerns, but also reported improvements in behavior and reinforced their commitment to the students and families of Washington Middle School and to improving the environment at Washington.
You see anything in there that says there was a crackdown on unruly behavior and stiff punishment for those offenders? Were parents called in and confronted with the mis-deeds of the hellions they are sending to the school every day? Is there a laundry list of expulsion hearings scheduled for the summer? Nope. Just meetings and discussions amongst themselves.
I'm not sure what good it would do to actually involve parents in this process anyway. Children don't just pick up the actions described by the former teacher out of thin air. Behavior that is tolerated at home becomes the norm when those kids head to school and the mall and wherever else they choose to hang out. Perhaps the teacher's impassioned plea for help at Washington Middle School should be inserted into the next episode of The Bachelorette--or become the video you have to watch before you can go to the movie and shows you downloaded from Netflix. Maybe that would get the attention of those that really need to know what is going on in their children's schools.