More and more school districts in America are using the police to assist with student discipline problems. Student misbehavior has grown so bad that many school administrators feel they cannot control students without serious backup. As a result, station houses are now becoming off-site school detention centers.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, alone, over 900 students were arrested between 2009 and 2010. In Texas, police issued nearly 300,000 “Class C misdemeanor” tickets to students in 2010. That number includes children as young as 6 years old.
Many schools now have police patrolling the halls—not to deter serious crimes, but for bad behavior like throwing paper airplanes and having food fights. Some students face prison time for writing threatening notes. Other children are in trouble for more serious charges, like sexual assault.
Some of the more publicized school incidents have involved kindergarteners. A Georgia 6-year-old girl was handcuffed and taken to her local police station after throwing a tantrum at school. A 6-year-old boy in Indianapolis was placed in police custody and charged with battery and intimidation after kicking the school principal. The same boy had previously bitten and kicked another school official.
When children are convicted of misdemeanors, they face fines, community service or even prison time—along with criminal records that hurt their future prospects for college and employment.
Parents of misbehaving children who have been drawn into the legal system disagree with calling the police into schools to respond to behavior problems. Child advocates, politicians and legal professionals are also questioning whether a troubled kindergartner can be reformed by the penal system. Yet advocates of school policing believe such crackdowns send a message to the student body and help keep large underage populations in check, and safe. Many school officials feel law enforcement is the only place to turn for help.
In all this debate, what is the key to student behavior?
The truth is, all good school behavior begins at home. The fact that our teachers are calling in the police for backup reveals that we have a major breakdown in families on our hands.
The Prophet Isaiah was able to see into our day and write down in his book an accurate description of what we are reading about our youth in headlines right now: “And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable” (Isaiah 3:5).
Isaiah introduces this statement with a detailed description of the breakdown in leadership—in society and in the home. The mighty man, the judge, the prudent and ancient are all gone. When families have no strong leadership, children are left unattended, undisciplined and unloved. And school classrooms and hallways become mean streets.
Yet notice that the prophet does more than show us the problems. He also diagnoses them and gives us the solution: “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (verse 12). According to Isaiah, the problem is that our family lives are upside down. To have happy children and peaceful schools, we have to turn the family right side up!
For decades the Trumpet has shown that as the family goes, so goes the nation. It continues to provide sound advice on effective, loving parenting—the answer to our out-of-control schools. To learn how our schools—and our nations—could solve their problems, read “Blueprint for a Happy Home” and take a look at our archive of family articles. ▪