Let parents choose safe schools

June 19, 2012

The Oklahoma Department of Education hosted a conference last week at the Cox Convention Center entitled Vision 2020. The event offered learning opportunities, professional development, and important training for educators, administrators, and parents. Some of the sessions I attended dealt with some of the major behavioral and disciplinary problems in our school system, including drugs, gangs, and bullying.

For years drug abuse has been a prevalent problem among American youth from all walks of life. Unfortunately, Oklahoma teens are not an exception to this trend. Often related to the drug abuse epidemic is gang activity. Oklahoma City is riddled with gang activity, thousands of confirmed members recruiting newbies as young as 12 years old. Another alarming trend is increased bullying which, when coupled with social-media outlets, has led to several recent suicides.

Oklahoma educators should be commended for the efforts they have made on these fronts. It’s truly promising to see that the State Department of Education takes these issues seriously. The speakers SDE hosted were engaging and the crowds were enthusiastic. There was a real sense that educators deeply care about their students and want to do everything in their power to alleviate these problems.

However, the root cause falls outside of the education system’s jurisdiction. Despite all the best intentions and efforts of our educators, the problems persist. Real solutions start at home, and until parents and guardians take an active and positive role in their children’s lives, the education system will remain shorthanded in the fight.

An alternative solution not advocated at Vision 2020 is to give parents more control in choosing where their children go to school. No matter how hard the system tries to prevent the influence of drugs, gangs, and bullies, the presence remains. Parents who are involved with their children should be given the opportunity to send their kids to a safe school, free from the influence of gangsters and bullies.

This opportunity should extend beyond the parents who are involved. Providing parents and guardians with more choices will spark interest and involvement while helping to prevent drug abuse, gang activity, and bullying. The solution always begins at home.

OCPA intern James Hall is a law student at the University of Virginia.