I'm no fan of vouchers, but......
Last weekend, I went to Education Wonks and found he had done a post on an incredibly depressing column by Colbert King about a public school in Washington, D.C..
"Security at Wilson High to Be Tightened" announced a headline in The Post's March 21 Metro section. More stringent measures were being put in place after 13 students were arrested because of two fights that week, the story said.
I first visited Woodrow Wilson High School 52 years ago as a 155-pound guard on Dunbar High School's football team. We played the Wilson Tigers to a 13-13 tie. Back then, student clashes were largely governed by rules and referees and limited to the athletic field.
Today, they play war in the cafeteria.
To reduce the violence, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee wrote in a letter to parents that when Wilson students return from spring break on Monday, they will stay in their classrooms for lunch. Rhee told me in an interview Wednesday that the "classroom lunch" will last for two days "while the school finalizes plans for a new lunch structure."
How did the District's once premier high school end up like this? It didn't happen overnight. And Wilson's sad state shouldn't surprise the city's powers.
On March 1, Mai Abdul Rahman, the mother of a Wilson student, sent Rhee an e-mail laying bare the problem...
Rahman described an assault on her son that occurred Feb. 26 in Wilson's gym during lunch recess:
He "walked unaccompanied into the gym [and] found himself surrounded by five 9th grade students. . . . For several minutes they proceeded to punch him in the face until two 12th graders broke it up."
"On the same day," Rahman wrote, "a 9th grade student was also 'jumped,' a term used to describe the violent assault action of one group that belong to a gang as they hit and maim their lonely victim. All these violent crimes occurred a day after Wilson security had discovered a gun that was found through the metal detector scanner in a student's bag."
Of her son, Rahman wrote: "The doctor says he was lucky to escape a skull fracture or loss of vision or hearing...
The e-mail continued: "This school year, Wilson has had a rash of violent student assaults and countless number of robberies. I am sure you are aware that our students are often victims of the same crime two or three times. . . . So far in the last three weeks both the Hawk security guards and D.C. police have confirmed to me that they have made 4 arrests of students in the school facilities for a combination of assaults and other criminal activities."
Rahman said that she was concerned that some Wilson students have been subjected to "terror and violence," that teachers and staff weren't present to protect students, that security guards are few and poorly trained, and that security cameras are poorly placed and vandalized.
She pointed to teenagers who roam hallways and the gym, looking for others to prey upon. "Most lack the proper tools to maintain class interest and focus, so they are rarely in class to the delight of most teachers who are tired of the discipline issues."
Things are so out of hand, Rahman wrote in a follow-up e-mail, "that assailants at Wilson often capture their attacks by video and circulate them with little fear of being caught and these videos that offensively chronicle their attacks are being used" to intimidate "all those who dare challenge their assailants."
Teachers need the power to remove unruly kids from their classes, and principals need more power to expel them. Quite frankly, some kids just don't belong in school. This is an extreme example of what happens when we feel like we have to save every one of them. It doesn't work, and it can lead to the point where no one can get an education.
I have never been a fan of vouchers, and I wouldn't want to see them used in any district that has schools that have the potential to be a good ones, but how can anyone argue against them in this situation. Does anyone actually believe that a "new program" or more money could possibly turn a school like this around?
Our priority must be to see to it that every kid who wants an education can get one. My first choice would be to see every violent and disruptive kid thrown out of this school, and I don't care how many that is. But assuming that isn't going to happen, in a situation like this, I would be happy to see my taxes spent to send kids who want an education to private schools. Something has to be done to separate those kids from the thugs who are, in effect, running this school.