Public School: A Penitentiary for Children

superthumbWhen I was a kid, I always felt school was like being in jail. I saw it as a place I had to go to–totally against my will–for about 8 hours of my day, Monday through Friday (excluding holidays). While there I was not allowed to leave and I was not allowed to do whatever I wanted. I was forced to “behave” and “listen” to the teacher. Pure torture…from my 10 year old perspective. Despite my overly dramatic childish impression of school as a type of prison, this view was not totally incorrect. Little did I know then that today’s schools would be morphing into a form of jail for children.


Solitary Confinement Room for Children

Schools across the country are literally building solitary confinement rooms for children. These cells tend to be very small, sometimes padded, with no windows. Sometimes the cells are equipped with mechanical restraints such as handcuffs and ankle shackles. Many of the children suffering this indignation also suffer from autism. With autism rates in the United States rising, schools are responding to the epidemic by building these “special rooms.” Schools argue that some children are so violent that the only way to protect the child, and those around the child, is by restraining the child in one of these cells. Shannon Knall, the policy chair of the Connecticut Chapter of Autism Speaks, blamed the high incidence of the use of restraints on teacher’s and administrative staff’s  “tremendous lack of training” and knowledge about alternative interventions.

I am a mom of four children. And as mentioned above, I myself was once a child. I will self-incriminate and admit that I was also often a very naughty child.  Fist fights (with boys…yes, I was that girl!), talking back to the teacher, ditching class, and daring the principal to call my parents. Despite all my bad behavior, I actually loved learning. Hence the law degree. I just hated school and all of its “constraining” rules. To this day, I still feel that many of the rules were unnecessary and tended to stifle learning. It is hard to believe that any school that maintains “solitary confinement” rooms for children is actually engaging in any type of learning activity. It is counter-intuitive to believe that schools that are so worried about “safety” they are building jail cells for kids are also able to deliver a “high achieving learning environment that fosters a life-long love for education.” Yeah right. As my grandpa would say, “you must think I was born yesterday, if you expect me to believe that.”

My personal experience with school (specifically public school) prompted me to place my children in a private school where I felt they would have more freedom and encouragement in learning. At the time I made that decision I had no idea about the ominous trend that would soon overtake America’s schools–ie., solitary confinement rooms. Now that I do know, I am so glad that I made the decision to not send my children to public school. Having said that I know that for most parents, private school is not an option. But there is another option–Homeschool. Again, I know that homeschool is not an easy choice for all families to make. It takes dedication and determination on the part of the parents. Sacrifices sometimes need to be made in terms of lifestyle since one parent is now required to stay home to teach the children. But it is a sacrifice that is well worth it. For single parents, homeschool may be entirely impossible. The other obvious option is for parents to regain control of local school boards. Again, this would take extreme persistence and collaboration on the part of determined parents. But it can be done. It just takes the willingness to try.

Our children deserve better than the schools are giving. Its time to make the schools answerable to parents. Either return school governance to their original form (local school boards were originally designed to be answerable to parents) or exit the schools via homeschool, private school, or school vouchers. Apathy is not an option.