I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, October 2, 2015

How to Lose Good Students and Good Families

The surveillance video was surprisingly clear, and it showed one student attack another student --and the victim fighting back.  The victim was pushed from behind and then jerked around by his backpack.  He turned around and a fight ensued, with most of the action unfolding outside of the view of the camera…  Nobody wants fights on campus, and certainly nobody wants students to be injured at school as the result of a violent fight.  That is what we can all agree upon.  But I also know that we all have the unalienable right of self-defense when we are attacked.  

Don’t we?

So it came as somewhat of a surprise to me to hear administrators and others whose opinions I typically respect tell me as we watched the video, “See, the student who was pushed turned around and started swinging, throwing punches.”  “Did he really have to do this, or could he have handled it a different way by talking his way out of the incident and not swinging at the attacker?”  Was the question one administrator asked me....
My answer:
We are asking the wrong question and focusing on the wrong student.  The only question that matters, so far as I’m concerned, is why one student physically attacked another.  Blaming the victim for defending himself and fighting off this attacker solves nothing.

In the incident in question, the one depicted on a video I recently viewed, the attacker was eventually punished appropriately in my opinion and the victim sustained a minor injury.  The parents of the victim chose not to press charges, and as best I can tell these two students have had no further issues.

At another school in our district, a High School,  the story did not play out with such a happy ending.

 In this school, the student who was bullied and physically slapped and taunted on multiple occasions tried to play it off.  He took it.  He walked away, and he turned the other cheek.  Eventually, he became depressed and confided in his parents about what was happening.  His parent contacted the bullied student’s coach, who assured the parent “he would take care of it.” 

That did not happen.

The bullying became worse and soon other students, somehow hearing that the victim’s parents had tried to intervene to stop the bullying, joined in the free-for-all of taunting this student. 
Many of these students began calling this freshman student their “Little White Bitch”

Finally, the exasperated parent approached the principal about the physical and mental abuses, and she was essentially blown-off with a “boys will be boys” sort of nonchalant response.

“I have never felt so rushed out of a meeting before in my life, like he did not want to hear anything I

 was telling him” the frustrated parent related to me in a subsequent conversation.

Two days later, this student was gone from our system,  after initially being offered a transfer  slot at a different Escambia County High School—these parents declined that offer and enrolled in a public school one county over. 

The parents were devastated. They  wanted desperately to have their son attend this one program in Escambia County, but because of the taunting and abusive behavior of some students, unchecked by adults who could have and should have done something to squelch the problem immediately, this  student and his engaged and active family are gone from a school that could have really benefitted from their presence.

This student did nothing wrong; in fact he and his family did everything right. 

The student did not engage nor did he fight back when he was assaulted, and the staff was made aware of the issue.  Multiple times.  The parents and the student tried to get the issue handled --but this school failed to address this problem. 

And so I go back to the quote from the administrator who eschewed the concept of defending oneself against an aggressive attacker.  “Did he really have to do this, or could he have handled it a different way by talking his way out of the incident?”

This High School student did just that, he did not fight back and look what he got-- for this he endured a month of taunting, physical blows, bullying, and harassment that went unabated for reasons neither I nor the parent understand.  A part of me wonders what would have happened to this student if he fought back.  Would we have found fault with that and blamed the victim in this incident as well? 


But one uncomfortable fact of the matter remains:  We failed here, we failed this student and his family as a school and as a district.

This is how we lose good students and their engaged, active, and supportive families to our neighboring county! 

This is, in large part, why our neighbor county’s school system is growing geometrically and ours has stagnated badly as we have actually lost 4,000 students over the last fifteen year time period.

The only way to fix this is to stop making excuses and start controlling the climate in some of our schools, setting political correctness at the curb,  lest we lose all our engaged and active families and students—as appears to be happening right now before our eyes over the last 15 years.

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