Why aren’t schools safe spaces anymore?
On a bathroom stall a racially charged note was found. The note suggested that black students were, “taking over the school.” Then, the most striking and violent part, just two words: “shoot em.”
The school is Metairie Park Country Day. Country Day is a predominately white private school in Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. Making matters worse, the school’s headmaster, Matt Neely, didn’t cancel school on that day. He didn’t even notify parents until the week after the incident happened. School leaders found the note on a Friday early in the day, and students remained in school although a threat was made.
“I should have been notified on Friday and if (headmaster Matt Neely) didn’t want to cancel school, the decision should have been left up to me whether I wanted to remove my child from school,” said Dr. Karen Paul, a Country Day School alumna and parent of a biracial child at the school. “What if something horrible happened?”
The Country Day Parents were kept in the dark about the incident until after the school officials met with students, meaning the decision to talk to children, not of legal age, about a threat at a school was made without their parents being present. The school and the administrators seem to want to protect themselves before protecting students in the building. We, as a community, are thankful that nothing happened. But in today’s atmosphere of active shooters, I believe more caution was warranted
This incident is just the latest in my metropolitan area, of actions that put the well-being of our children at risk. From teachers sexually assaulting students and pursuing relationships with students, to administrations refusing to educate students because of the way their hair is styled, just to name a few.
While we fail to protect our kids from actual threats, we keep punishing them for completely arbitrary reasons. Nationally, we have seen Black children punished for the style of their hair. We have seen former students shoot up schools and police officers assigned to protect the students in that school. The countless number of bomb threats schools get on a consistent basis. School resource officers who have used excessive force against children in schools and young children put in handcuffs to subdue them at school. These are just a few examples of the unsafe, pushy actions becoming of a bully that has been displayed in some of our schools in recent years. Sadly, this is only a summary and a mere snapshot of what happens in some of our schools today.
Maybe I’m old fashioned, delusional, or a dreamer, but I remember the schoolhouse being a safe place of refuge, rebuilding, and rejuvenation. I remember looking forward to seeing my principal, teachers, cafeteria lady and janitor. My school was full of adults who poured into our lives to make us better. The only evacuations I remember were fire drills. Oh sure we had disagreements, discipline, and a fight or two, but those things happened then we moved on. We ribbed and played the dozens, but truthfully it made us tougher and life continued to happen. I simply remember school being truly a safe space.
I pray that we could find our way back to this again. For the sake of our kids and generations to come. In the case of this note found at Country Day, I pray that it was a hoax and foolish actions by a wayward kid who needs to be scolded and reprimanded the old-fashioned way. As to the administrators at Metairie Park Country Day and administrators at schools across our nation, I sincerely wish that you all begin to see the mistakes in some of your actions and make a valiant effort to rectify your home to school action plan. Parents are not on a need to know basis. They always need to know! Make school safe again.