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Where's the common sense?
October 3, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
We live in what is, in many ways, a schizophrenic society, one where too many people leap at shadows and boogeymen who aren't actually there and where "school zero tolerance" policies have run amok.
I've thought this for years, but reading some of the comments at the Free Range Kids blog only reinforces the opinion. This week's topic is a school somewhere in the United States that requires parents picking their kids up from school to wait in their cars, with a sign on the dashboard with the child's name. Then the school secretary sends the children out of the school, one by one, making the whole process take half an hour or more. Parents are not allowed to go into the school and it is frowned upon for them to get out of their cars to walk around or chat with other parents.
Other parents, commenting on the blog, discussed equally asinine school pick-up policies. In one, parents must communicate with their child's teacher by passing a note back and forth. No actual face-to-face contact is allowed and parents are not permitted to actually go onto the school grounds. In another, parents have to undergo a retinal scan before they enter the locked school, show ID and pass a screening before proceeding into the school. In one school in the state I am aware of, parents must go directly to the child's classroom to pick the child up at the classroom door. Apparently the days of kids racing out of the school to walk or ride home on bicycles, unencumbered by teacher guides, is a thing of the past at some of these schools.
Also at this blog there is the story of an 18-year-old who was expelled and required to get a mental health evaluation for having a pocket knife at camp. She got a clean bill of health from the shrink, but said the whole incident ruined her summer and she still can't think of it without crying. Yesterday, on the radio, I heard a story about a teenager who was expelled for 10 days because he had a knife. The kid had been doing chores before school, using the knife, and forgot he had it on him. He told the school security guard he had it with him before he entered the school, explained the circumstances and tried to give him the knife. The school still suspended him. And then, of course, there is a media saturated with sexual imagery and a legal system that punishes teens ever more harshly for doing what teenagers have always done.
With all of this hysteria, you might be forgiven if you failed to realize that child abuse rates (and crime rates in general) have actually fallen dramatically during the past couple of decades. Despite an increase in population, the national murder rate is half what it was in 1980. The rate of forcible rape has dramatically declined since 1992, when there were 43 incidents per 100,000, compared with 27 per 100,000 now, according to a July 31 article by Richard Davis in the Deseret News. The robbery rate is half what it was two decades ago. Non-violent crimes have also sharply declined. Despite the dismal state of the economy and a general shortage nationwide in mental health and social services, which might have been expected to increase incidences of abuse, reports of child abuse have also dramatically declined, year after year for the last couple of decades. The children whose parents are so afraid to let them walk home from school would actually be a good bit safer doing so now than their parents were back in the 1980s. And no, I don't think the increased safety has much of anything to do with schools and zero tolerance policies or with more punitive laws. Where's the common sense?
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