Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Their Son Is Suicidal Because of Bullying. They Blame an Obama-Era School Discipline Policy

Nicole Landers found a note written by her 9-year-old son, Jared. “Kill me. I mean nothing. I have issues,” it read.

Her son’s April 16 note, Landers said, was the culmination of months of bullying Jared endured in the classroom. That bullying included being struck in the face and thrown in the mud by another student. Even threats of electrocution.

“Jared has been relentlessly bullied,” his stepfather, Josh Landers, told The Daily Signal. “To the point of being suicidal.”

The Landerses tried addressing the situation with officials at Pine Grove Elementary School in Carney, Maryland, where Jared, who has since turned 10, is in fourth grade.

The parents provided documentation to The Daily Signal of bullying reports they filed with Baltimore County Public Schools throughout the year, including communication from April, when the situation became dire.

Nicole and Josh Landers say their 12-year-old daughter, Tamar, has faced multiple instances of sexual harassment in the same school district. They say Justin, their 18-year-old son, was threatened after reporting a student with a knife in class at his school, Loch Raven High School.

Officials at Baltimore County Public Schools, the parents say, are unable to provide a safe learning environment for their three children. They blame an Obama-era school discipline policy.

The U.S. Department of Education had good intentions in establishing the policy, noting that black students in the 2011-12 school year were three times as likely to be suspended and expelled as white students. Many argued that high suspension rates for minority students contributed to a “school-to-prison pipeline,” where already disadvantaged children ended up incarcerated.

To address this disparity, the Obama administration established new school discipline guidelines in 2014. Using the threat of civil rights lawsuits, the policy urged the nation’s schools to use positive reinforcement instead of punishing students’ bad behavior by suspending or expelling them.

“We went from a policy of zero tolerance to extreme tolerance,” Josh Landers says. “All that it has done is caused chaos within classrooms. It has disarmed teachers from having the ability to control their classes and stay safe and protected. Students are bullied relentlessly.”

In order to address this, Nicole and Josh Landers started Parents Against School Violence, a group that is calling on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to rescind the Obama administration’s 2014 guidance. DeVos is in the process of reviewing those guidelines, and hasn’t made a decision.

The Landerses, however, say they don’t have time to wait. Next fall, they plan to send Jared and Tamar to private school.

“I’m not confident that both of the children we still have left in the public school, that they would both come out alive or not seriously harmed,” Nicole Landers says.

“We’ve done some investigations with a couple of private schools, and we’re going to bite the bullet,” Josh Landers adds.

The Landerses say they aren’t sure how they’ll pay for private school, but that extra work, second jobs, and God will help.

“We will go to whatever lengths that we have to, to ensure not only their most basic safety within the school system, but also the benefit of a healthy education,” Josh Landers says of Jared and Tamar.


Why There’s an Increased Interest in Homeschooling

Nice to see all that yellow hair

There’s a lot to dislike about many public schools—and right now, student safety is at the top of the list. “After a gunman opened fire on students in Parkland, Florida,” a new Washington Times feature explains, “the phones started ringing at the Texas Home School Coalition, and they haven’t stopped yet.”

Like so many state organizations, the Texas organization was used to a certain number of inquiries about homeschooling. President Tim Lambert says they usually averaged about 600 calls a month—a number he watched double over the past several weeks. “When the Parkland shooting happened, our phone calls and emails exploded. And they’re not alone.

“I think what happens with these school shootings is they’re the straws that broke the camel’s back,” Christopher Chin, the president of Homeschool Louisiana, told the Times. “I don’t think it’s the major decision-maker, but it’s in the back of parents’ minds.” In general, he thinks, the violence, bullying, and dangerous environment is tipping the decision for families, who were already sick of the lack of quality instruction and liberal indoctrination.

More families are angry about what their kids are learning—and they’re pulling their kids out of public school to prove it.

Over the last four years, reporters have seemed surprised by the mass exodus of children from traditional education settings. The homeschooling movement has ballooned from 1.5 million to estimates of more than 2 million now. Since most states aren’t required to count the number of homeschooling families, it’s still a guessing game. But there’s one thing everyone agrees on: more parents are making the leap—and fast.

Based on the crackdown on faith, the out-of-control sex ed, and genderless chaos, who can blame them? “Most parents homeschool for more than one reason,” Brian Ray points out at the National Home Education Research Institute. When he asks families, he hears these issues over and over again: “a desire to provide religious instruction or different values than those offered in public schools; dissatisfaction with the academic curriculum, and worries about the school environment.”

In some states, like North Carolina, the number of kids in home schools is actually growing faster than private school enrollment. At least at home, parents can take back the control that schools are stealing from them.

Of course, not everyone is happy about the shift—least of all big government bureaucrats, who are worried they’re losing their grip on students. Or local school districts, who lose a significant chunk of funding with each departing student. But what are moms and dads to do when the place they send their kids to learn is punishing their religion, denying them privacy, and forcing them to sit through sex-ed curriculums so pornographic you couldn’t read it on the evening news?

When President Barack Obama forced schools to open their bathrooms and locker rooms to kids of both genders, Texas Lt. Gov.  Dan Patrick warned that it would “be the end of public education, if this prevails. People will pull their kids out, homeschooling will explode, and private schools will increase.” Looking back, Patrick was prophetic.

But, as usual, as the number of homeschoolers grow, so do the legislative threats. States like California would like nothing better than to clamp down on the families who want to take full responsibility for their children’s education.

Parents, state legislators and groups like the Homeschool Legal Defense Association need to be on their toes, as liberals try to fight back with tighter restrictions and more regulations on homeschoolers. In the meantime, maybe more school districts will get the message: If they stop being hostile to most Americans’ values, fewer parents would be running for the exits.


The college dropout problem most education advocates don’t talk about

Talk of higher education reform tends to focus, understandably enough, on the cost of college. After all, steady tuition increases, rising student debt, and eye-popping sticker prices at well-known colleges and universities leave too many students and parents wondering if college is out of reach.

For all this healthy attention as to whether students can afford to go to college, however, we’ve too often lost sight of an equally crucial question — whether they’ll actually earn a degree once they’re there. The disheartening reality is that far too many students invest scarce time and money in attending a college from which they never graduate, and frequently wind up worse off than if they’d simply foregone college altogether.

In 2016, more than 40 percent of all students who started at a four-year college six years earlier had not yet earned a degree. Odds are that most of those students never will. In real terms, this means that nearly two million students who begin college each year will drop out before earning a diploma.

Indeed, according to our research, there are more than 600 four-year colleges where less than a third of students will graduate within six years of arriving on campus. When we look at public two-year colleges, most of which are community colleges, the graduation rate for full-time, first-time students is even lower. Only about 26 percent of students at those schools will have completed their degree within three years.

These dismal completion rates create significant private and societal costs. For individual students, the costs come in the form of student debt, lost time, and lower expected earnings (median annual earnings for students who complete a bachelor’s degree are $15,000 higher than for those who attended college but didn’t earn a degree). For society, the costs show up in forgone tax revenue and wasted public subsidies. In aggregate, some estimate that the total private and public costs of non-completion impose a half a trillion dollar drag on the economy.

In seeking to respond to these challenges, education scholars at the American Enterprise Institute and Third Way have joined together to commission a series of studies by five experts laying out the challenges of non-completion and the urgency for families, educators, and policymakers to take action to address it. (You can find those papers here.)

Now, we do well to heed the risks that a narrow focus on college completion can invite — especially when such an emphasis starts to shapes the incentives and strictures of public policy.

As we have seen in K–12, it is all too possible for simple metrics to yield gamesmanship, corner cutting, or manipulation. We are all-too-familiar with colleges that are content to churn out watered-down degrees with little labor market value, or that take care to only admit the most academically prepared students — leaving someone else to serve others for whom the path to completion will be more difficult. Obviously, measures that encourage colleges to “game the system” are a step in the wrong direction.

Thus, reforms intended to incentivize or improve completion rates need to be designed with scrupulous attention to potential consequences and due regard for the full range of outcomes that matter to taxpayers and students.

That said, there are examples of intriguing programs at the state and college-level that merit careful attention. Thirty-two states currently use performance-based funding policies that award a larger share of public subsidies to colleges that deliver impressive performance metrics. While the overall success of these policies is still up for debate, what’s clear is that states like Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee are using these policies to gently prod colleges to focus on their students’ outcomes. In such states, some higher education institutions have modified their advising, counseling, and academic services to prioritize retention and completion.

Approached with care and appropriate attention to possible perverse incentives, performance-based funding is one way to encourage colleges to put more emphasis on supporting the students they enroll.

At the campus level, it’s vital to note that low-cost, quick-fix programs are predictably hard to come by. While there are no silver bullets, we know that higher education providers are already making hundreds of decisions that impact students’ experience and motivation in a way that makes it more or less likely they will succeed.

For example, Georgia State University issues automatic completion grants to college-level juniors and seniors with unmet financial need. On average, these grants are about $900 each, and they help students overcome the stumbling blocks that can be posed by expenses like heating bills and textbook costs. In 2016, nearly 2,000 students received completion grants, with GSU reporting that 61 percent of seniors who received one graduated within two semesters. Programs like these illustrate what colleges can do to help students graduate, without compromising standards or lowering the bar for college completion.

Even in these polarized times, we can agree that college students should complete their degrees and that taxpayers should get repaid for the funds they make available through student loans. We have the opportunity to seek solutions that focus not only on whether students can afford to arrive on campus, but on whether those students willing to do the work will leave with the education and the credential they came for. Left or right, that’s a cause we can all embrace.


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