In recent years, there has been a lot of intense discussion about the role of schools in our society.
We have engaged in discussions nationwide about what students should know and be able to do when they finally graduate. This list has grown longer and longer over time, but the resources are being reduced each year.
Additionally for those of us who work in public schools, we are finding increasingly that things that were previously taught to children by their family, the community or the church have now been shifted to the schools.
Lets take the case of bullying: In the past, everyone understood that bullying was a phenomenon that often manifested itself in schools, because this is where young people socialize in large numbers on a daily basis.
But people also understood that schools were not the sole source of the bullys behavior. We knew that children who engaged in bullying behavior often reflected in large part the values they learned (or did not learn) at home or in the community outside of the school.
Today, we have moved towards the idea that schools are the sole source of the problem and, therefore, should be wholly responsible for the moral and spiritual development of the children who are enrolled there.
A prime example of this lopsided expectation can be seen in the aftermath of violence involving the now-infamous high school student named Sharkeisha.
A video that has gone viral shows Sharkeisha brutally attacking and beating another girl Shamichael, who she accused of cheating with her boyfriend. During the assault, a group of Sharkeishas friends were standing watching the savage attack and videotaping it. Sharkeisha then posted the video on a popular social media site.
Since then, the video has gotten millions of views. Even worse, the phrase and the audio “Sharkeisha, No!” of Sharkeisha’s friend protesting during the fight has been turned into memes and is even used as an audio clip that is played daily on a New York City radio station.
The mother of the bullied victim told a reporter that she intended to press charges against Sharkeisha and all of the girls who were present and that she expected the school to take disciplinary action against the girls as well . . . even though the events did not take place in school. In fact, the beating happened at the housing complex of one of the girls.
Additionally, Sharkeisha was eventually arrested . . . at school, leaving the school to deal with the logistics of the arrest and the impact this arrest would have on the other students at school, even though, once again, this whole entire episode had nothing to do with school.
In fact one could argue that the school did an excellent job of preventing bullying from occurring, because despite the fact that all of these girls presumably were together in school everyday, they received the message that they could not engage in this type of behavior in school. Apparently they received no similar message about their behavior at home and in the community.
Unfortunately, I can predict with certainty that the series of lawsuits that will soon follow this horrific event will absolutely name the school district as one of the defendants, even though the fight did not take place on school property and had nothing to do with the school.
This would be consistent with the national trend of ever increasing numbers of lawsuits being initiated against schools over matters that they have little or no control over. This has resulted in more and more funding being directed away from classrooms to defend against frivolous suits. The root of this problem of course is directly related to what people expect schools to be responsible for.
We must remember that although schools can be powerful partners in the moral and character development of our children, they were never designed to be the dominant partner in these efforts. The primary responsibility for our childrens moral compass must come from home and society at large.
If at no time Sharkeisha and her friends parents are held to account for their childrens bad behavior, and our society indirectly rewards kids like Sharkeisha by turning them into celebrated Internet sensations, then what do we really expect schools to do?
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