by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
School choice advocates argue that parents need educational options to address academic deficiencies in their assigned public schools. But school choice is also needed to accommodate parents’ desire to remove their children from harmful learning environments.
Today, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2014, a report that assembles data from a variety of sources to assess the relative safety of public schools in each state.
In 2013, 6.9 percent of public high school students in North Carolina reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property at least one time during the previous 12 months. A number of other states in the South, including Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana, reported much higher rates. Additionally, around one in five North Carolina students said that they were bullied on school property in 2013.
The presence of illegal drugs continues to be an issue in America’s public schools. Nearly one quarter of high school students reported that illegal drugs were made available to them on school property. The percentage of public high school students who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous month was a 23 percent. Shockingly, 32 percent of North Carolina students reported using alcohol during the same period.
The most disturbing statistic is the percentage of teachers who agreed that student misbehavior and student tardiness and class cutting interfered with their teaching. Although the data are somewhat dated, 40 percent of North Carolina teachers reported that student misbehavior interfered with their teaching. Another 37 percent identified student tardiness and class cutting as a problem. Both percentages are consistent with the national average.
The only bright spot was that there were very few reported firearms incidents at North Carolina public schools. Only 11 cases were reported in 2013. Our state’s incident to student ratio, 0.7 incidents per 100,000 students, was one of the lowest in the nation.
Threats, bullying, illegal drugs, and disruptive students in public schools are a few of the many reasons why school choice is thriving in North Carolina and beyond. Obviously, charter and private schools are not immune from school crime and violence, but incidents appear to be less prevalent than in district schools. In fact, the NCES’s 2012 Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey (PFI-NHES) found that parents of children who attended a public school of choice or private school were more likely to be very satisfied with the order and discipline at their school compared to parents of assigned public school children.
Furthermore, an increasing number of parents are removing their children from potentially harmful school environments by choosing homeschooling. According to the 2007 PFI-NHES, 21 percent of parents chose to homeschool their children out of concern for the school environment, which was second only to the 36 percent of home educators who wanted to provide their children religious or moral instruction.
It is despicable that district schools force mainly low and middle class children, who have been victimized in their assigned school, to remain in that environment. Give those parents options so that their children have an opportunity to focus on learning, not looking over their shoulder.
Acronym of the Week
NCES — National Center for Education Statistics
Quote of the Week
"Yeah, how about it, teach? You got a big mouth. Tell me to do this, do that. Are you big enough to take me to the principal’s office? Because that’s what you’re gonna have to do. Take me. So, come on! Take me! Come on!"
– Artie West (Vic Morrow) in Blackboard Jungle (1955)
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