The headline screamed at me from the front page of the big city newspaper. It was above an article talking about how, since schools were back in session, the police were being kept very busy.
That’s so sad.
Police and schools didn’t used to ever appear in the same sentence. They still shouldn’t. But, of course, they do.
I sat down when I read the story and tried my hardest to remember ever seeing a police officer inside our school building, from the time I entered first grade — no kindergarten in Porterdale when I was of age — until 12th grade. I couldn’t think of a single time, not counting Sheriff Henry Odum Jr. being at basketball practice occasionally and every game. He wasn’t there to keep order. He was the biggest fan. Not of basketball, necessarily, but of young people.
During my senior year there were civil rights marches throughout the spring in our community. That was 1970, and we were finally about to get around to following the directive of Brown vs the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, and fully integrate Newton County schools. We had four years of tokenism known as “Freedom of Choice” before that.
The first day the students from R.L. Cousins, the county’s black high school, marched over from their school to the Board of Education building, a convoy of Georgia State Patrol officers known as the “Sandersville Riot Squad” rolled up and surrounded our building, but none of them came inside and they weren’t ever really necessary.
Other than that, my mind was a blank. And there might have been an incident requiring police presence that I have forgotten, but I really don’t think so. I have a really good memory. It’s so good, in fact, that sometimes I am said to remember things that didn’t even happen.
The most excitement we had at our school was on those days, about once a year, when the Phantom Disc Jockey would strike. Every year, late in the spring, we would be sitting in class and music would start playing over the intercom boxes throughout the school. It was a tradition. Someone with an advanced aptitude for electronics would wire music into the school’s PA system and start blaring it all over the building. It might take five or 10 minutes for administrators to find the source of the music, and if the culprits responsible were ever found out, it was not made public. And I am certain no law enforcement was needed, then or at any other time.
That is not the case, today, of course and, like I said, that’s sad. Almost every middle and high school I know about has a school resource officer on the premises and throughout the last 15 years of my teaching career, they were a very necessary part of the school population. I am sorry to say that I watched our resource officers break up fights, investigate drug deals, haul students off in handcuffs and be verbally and physically attacked by students.
I wish I could say that these were rare incidents. I guess I could say that, but I would be lying. They were commonplace.
Nowadays, in many communities, it is not enough to have an officer at the school, which is the point the article that I read was making. Police have been called to metro schools to deal with gang issues, bomb threats, drunk students, weapons sightings, and threats of mass violence. All of these incidents — and it’s not barely the middle of August.
It is not an education problem. It is not a law enforcement problem. It is not a political problem. It is a societal problem. These unsafe situations in our public schools are due 100% to the breakdown of the family unit as the basis of our society. Period.
Parents are not teaching their children right from wrong and they are not holding them accountable for their behavior — and parents are not modeling correct behavior for their children and they are not teaching them to respect authority, the sanctity of life, or themselves. No educational panel and no law enforcement officer can change this behavior.
Until there is control and accountability in the home, there will be none in the schools or anywhere else. And the children of those parents who do teach them right from wrong and do send them to school to learn with the age-old admonition to “behave yourself and mind your teacher” will continue to be at risk and have their opportunity to learn disrupted each day by those whose do not.
Like I said: It’s sad. Policemen and schools don’t belong in the same story. In the big cities or anywhere else.