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How Schools Set The Stage For Disaster ...by Bill Knell

There was never a time when students went to school and had completely positive experiences, regardless of the grade level. That's because people are not perfect. As long as human beings are part of the equation, you can expect anything and everything. Today's schools are trying to deal with problems instead of the people that create them by using methods that are either outdated or ineffective.

The zero tolerance and allegedly strict disciplinary methods adopted by many learning centers work best with students and employees who do not represent the greatest academic challenges, biggest behavioral problems or greatest threats to a school. The same may be said of various counseling programs or trying to hold parents accountable for what their kids do in school. The truth is that school administrations want to hold everyone accountable for their failures except themselves.

The current conditions in most schools are a recipe for disaster that are turning learning centers into places where no one is able to properly teach, learn or feel safe. Why? Because despite all the metal detectors, anti-drug programs and security procedures in schools, these environments are still largely out of control. They depend on the faculty and students to behave in ways which will not break the rules or threaten the safety of the learning environment. Good luck on that!

The dynamics of the home life for American Students has changed a great deal over the past seventy-five years. Many students come to school each day from what can best be described as controlled chaos. The huge rise in divorce and remarriage situations has created complicated family environments that children and teens who are intellectually and emotionally immature by virtue of their ages are forced to deal with. Add to that all the normal challenges of trying to adjust to various environments involving peer interaction in and out of school that are filled with kids facing the same situations and you have a huge social bomb just waiting to explode.

School employees come from the same potentially unsteady home environments as students. The potential for unprofessional or even criminal behavior by faculty or staff members is there and very real. The molestation and abuse of students has reached epidemic proportions in the USA. Improper teacher-student relationships are also on the rise and have become a regular part of scholastic life in many places. It's so bad that one state recently acknowledged their inability to prevent those kinds of situations by over-turning a law that made teacher-student relationships illegal even if the students involved are over eighteen years of age.

Schools have not prepared themselves to deal with the present social situation and many still go on with business as usual the same way they have for over a hundred years. What they have tried has not worked. The proof of that statement lies in the fact that there are more kids committing suicide, more teachers molesting or having affairs with students, and more instances of bullying, drug use and violence in learning centers than ever before.

In an attempt to establish what school administrations find acceptable as learning-friendly environments, they have actually created accidents looking for places to happen. They have it backwards. The first and foremost consideration for any environment where adults and children mix should be safety. Teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn in an unsafe situation. Administrations have to create realistic and enforceable rules and adopt new methods that assure safety. Here are some suggestions:

1. Silence

Students should only be allowed to speak with each other in designated areas where they can be monitored. Classrooms, hallways and lunchrooms should remain quiet except for discussions related to the learning process. Students do not come to school to socialize, bully or verbally abuse each other. They do not come there to form into groups that act superior towards their peers. They do not come to school to mouth off to their teachers or disrupt classes. They come to learn.

2. Everything is a Privilege

Participation in social activities such as clubs, dances and meetings should be privileges that must be earned by obeying the rules. The same is true of students that want to use school computers or meet in areas where speaking is permitted.

3. No Visitors.

People should never be allowed access to a school without calling ahead and being given prior approval to enter the premises. Legislatures should make it illegal to be on school property without prior authorization.

4. Buildings and Ground must be properly Secured.

Fences, locks and card entry should be used to secure school buildings, grounds and all parking areas. Fence blinders should be used (cloths or plastic that block the view through chain-link style fences) to assure privacy and help eliminate the possibility of outside threats to students.

5. Everyone is Guilty until Proven Innocent.

Teachers and students should be encouraged to report even the slightest infraction of rules or incidences of bullying or other improper behavior. If the report seems reliable, the accused student or teacher should immediately be suspended until the situation can be cleared up.

6. Monitors

Law Enforcement and Mental Health professionals should be enlisted to regularly and randomly monitor any classroom or social situation in school where improper or illegal behavior may be taking place.

7. Locker and Personal Property Inspections and Searches

All school employees and students should be subject to personal property inspections and searches on a regular and random basis. This includes the random examination of electronic devices such as personal laptops, smart pads and cell phones.

8. Social Networking and Email

School employees and students should advise school officials of any and all social networking sites they use or email addresses they have and agree to allow those sites and all messages to be randomly monitored for short periods of time.

9. Criminal and Behavioral Background Checks

Extensive background checks should be conducted on anyone employed by a school. Those on medications prescribed for behavioral issues should be carefully and frequently monitored.

10. Drug Tests

If you cannot pass a drug test, you have no business in any school whether you work or learn there.

Are these methods extreme? Yes. That's because they are meant to help save lives and deal with extremely serious problems that will not go away with detention assignments, warehousing of problem students in special schools or reassigning teachers from one school to another. Teachers go to school to teach and students to learn. These learning centers should never have been allowed to become the be social experiments or recreation centers they have become.


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