Maybe we're taking our 'free' schools for granted

What has four walls, surveillance cameras and armed guards?

A) Prisons

B) Banks

C) Schools

D) All of the above

My daughter came home from school with an informational piece to parents titled, "Superintendent's Safety Update." It was designed, I suppose, to reassure us that our children are safe in school.

In the three-page letter home, the superintendent reports that:

- The surveillance camera system at Carson High has been improved and increased.

- We're expecting our second sheriff's deputy to be joining us shortly. The first deputy, Ray Guzman, has been stationed at Carson High and has been a welcome addition to that staff. The second sheriff's deputy is yet to be named and will be working with both middle schools and the alternative campus at Corbett School.

- We have at least one elementary school (Seeliger) which has done a study on school uniforms or at least further study on this topic. The initial parent response was favorable, so Mr. Watty, the principal, will work with a team of people to look further into this issue.

- A structural safety review has been done on each school site which studied such things as fencing, limited access, exterior and interior structural components which can help improve safety. This review will go into planning and may also get some emphasis in terms of any possible bond issues that the School Board might be considering.

- Name tags and ID badges are under study and I anticipate having full identification system in progress by next year.

There was no mention of plans to change the graduation ceremonies to parole hearings, but that may be just a few years down the road.

You can't blame the school district for addressing safety. Lord knows it's a big concern in America today. Especially on the heels of the tragedies of Columbine, etc.

On the other hand, I don't know that turning our schools into prisons is really the way to go. Under that policy, we should all put bars on our windows and stand on our porches with shotguns to fend off the burglars.

A better approach might be to send the bad apples home for good, or to real prisons. Keep it relatively simple: Bring a weapon to school and you will be kicked out of school forever. Assault a fellow student and you will be kicked out of school forever. Assault a teacher and you will be kicked out of school forever.

Is everyone clear on that?

Call me a dreamer, but I still believe an education is a privilege. Especially when it's supposedly "free," as we like to believe our public school system is.

Screw up and you lose your privileges. The only way to get them back is to pay. Have Mom and Dad send Junior to a private school. Maybe if Mom and Dad had to pay they'd pay more attention to what Junior does in school. "Come on now, Junior," Mom might actually say. "Take that pistol out of your lunch bag you silly boy and take these cookies instead. If you shoot the teacher we won't get our deposit back."

Maybe it comes down to value. Perhaps our public schools have been "free" for so long that we've pretty much assumed it's a God given right, no matter what Junior does.

The ACLU and others have handcuffed teachers and administrators. You can't whack Junior when he decides to be naughty. I had a gym teacher once who knew how to handle problem students. He'd jack them up against a locker until they said "Mommy."

Schools in Japan have solved the vandalism problems by forcing students to clean up the campus at the end of every day. Kids have to empty trash cans, clean the bathroom sinks and toilets and generally tidy things up before they can go home for the day.

As a result, there isn't a heck of a big appetite for making big messes.

Try that in this country and you'll have everyone from the Center For Abused Children to the United School Janitorial Laborers Union 5970 on your tail.

It's no coincidence that many of America's best students come from other countries. They understand that America offers one heck of a deal when it comes to education and they take advantage of every second of it.

Driving down Highway 1 from North to South Vietnam you see thousands of young children riding bicycles to school in their white shirts and blouses and blue slacks and dresses. Their dirt-poor peasant parents have scraped up every last dong they can find in hopes that their children will find better lives far away from the water buffalo and rice paddies. Many of the students get up before dawn to ride the many miles to school. When they arrive there are no security cameras. No guards. No fences.

So while it should be comforting to know that my children are being protected while they learn to read and write, it is disturbing that their schools are becoming prisons.

And it's embarrassing that we have come to that in what is supposed to be the greatest country in the world.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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