The question of should I send my child to a private school or a public school is a big debate these days within many communities within the United States. My town is no different.
What I realized is that there are distinct differences between a private school and public-school education. The factors to consider are size of school, caliber of teaching staff and student safety. This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list but simply a core set of attributes to assess a school, public or private.
First, I looked at student safety from two vantage points, 1) disciplinary issues such as bullying and 2) school safety.
Regarding the first point, the data shows that HIB (bullying) violations within schools in NJ have risen quite a bit over the years. From what I’ve been able to surmise, the school environment is one in which there is no fear by the student of repercussions for inappropriate actions. The issue is if a HIB occurs, the student speaks with a counselor, goes her merry way until the next infraction occurs. If they were to be expelled where do they go? Exactly, they rarely are expelled if ever. They simply are put back into the system to continue as before. Hence, the system is currently broken, and the good kids become the victims.
In contrast, our experience with private school is if there is a discipline issue involving a student the threat of suspension or expulsion is great, therefore, serious infractions by the student body are greatly reduced.
This issue of discipline involves the teachers too. Their hands are tied when it comes to dealing with misbehaving children. There have been several incidents as of late within our HS which include but are not limited to the following:
1 – A teacher offered a correction to a middle school students test paper. Teacher writes, “please rephrase”, student writes, “how about s*** my d*** b****.” The student received a detention after school.
2 – Then there’s the issue of the lawsuit that recently placed our town in the national news spotlight for the teaching of Islam within our school system. Sadly, this could have been dealt with in a timely manner by our Superintendent of schools. The middle school in our town has since received threats.
3 – There is also the child that was put on his knees and threatened Amadou Diallo style by another student at a middle school in our town. The parents had no choice but to summon the police who subsequently became involved to help gain a resolution when the school administration would not.
4 – Then there was the situation where a child of the Islamic faith was surrounded by his so-called “friends” and demanded to say “Allah.”
5 – Finally, two years ago during my 8th graders last week of school, the boys were in line getting ready to practice for their upcoming graduation and started chanting, “I want Pu**y” They chanted it over and over and over. The female teachers tried to get them to stop but failed and several teachers wound up in tears. Repercussions? You got it, not so much.
As far as emotional well being is concerned, “In a health survey given to students in December 2016, 102 high school students in our town reported that they had “seriously considered attempting suicide” in the past year. The class President went on to state, “Students come to School high Every Day” One outcome of this, we now have “another” school psychologist being added to the roster and our tax bill continues to increase.
As far as the safety of the school is concerned, this is a national issue which is far from solved. In 2018 according to CNN there has been, on average, 1 school shooting every week in the United States. https://www.cnn.com/school-shootings
All school districts across the nation are now debating various methods to deal with a first shooter event. The ideas range from bad to worse. For example, arming teachers with a Glock 9, arming children with rocks, teachers taking SWAT training and portable bullet proof walls, to name a few.
I looked at Private verses public school shooting statistics. What the data shows is that overwhelmingly, HS shootings are perpetrated by male students within public schools. Private all girl schools, not so much. The only incidents perpetrated by females involved poison or arson.
I don’t know about you but the only drills for safety we did in high school was for a fire drill or hide under our desks incase a nuclear attack was forthcoming from the USSR.
One educator noted, “The average private school has fewer students and there is more opportunity for teachers and administrators to know their students, more one-on-one time which may allow school employees to better identify at-risk children.”
One question to ask your child, “is there anyone in your class at school you could see losing it and doing something really bad to hurt other students?” Brace yourself for the answer.
Finally, one other area of note are the teachers at our town HS, whom, for the most part, are top notch. In our experience 90% to 95% are truly outstanding.
However, what should be improved upon is the vetting of the new hires. At our HS we’ve had some interesting cases over the years. For example, a coach, who offered drugs to student athletes at her former HS was recommended by her brother who is a teacher and coach at our school. She was hired by our HS and subsequently left after less than one year of coaching at our HS. An excerpt from her case that is easily discoverable with a Google search:
“we also found troubling inconsistencies between your signed resignation of and the recitation of the facts that led to the revocation of your county substitute license, as you now report them in your letter. While you admit the presence of students whom you did not invite to your home nowhere in your letter do you acknowledge knowingly serving students alcohol or providing “approx. 1 hit of pot” to any student at your home on that night. Such inconsistency creates question regarding your rehabilitation and sincerity in reapplying for licensure.”
Christopher Schraufnagel, also worked at our HS. Was soon let go only to commit atrocities elsewhere: https://www.lohud.com/chappaqua-teacher-scandal
Perhaps a more rigorous background check process is required.
In conclusion, it is apparent that the environment in my small-town HS is not what it used to be, small classes are now few and far between, security is a serious issue, accountability for bad behavior is low to non-existent, anxiety and stress levels are through the roof.
Perhaps our Superintendent should attempt to earn his $167k per annum and take a serious look at the school system he oversees. The many HIB violations, suicide, national news issue; he is clearly not moving fast enough to get ahead of these serious issues facing our children and, as a consequence, putting them all at serious risk. He get’s a D-