What will it take to bring back a semblance of order to our schools?
A few weeks ago, an 11-year-old girl was beaten by a group of students at the Mark Twain Intermediate School for the Gifted and Talented in Brooklyn.
Now her attackers have posted a video of the beating and they continue tormenting her.
She has to be escorted around the school by a bodyguard.
And what punishment has been meted out to the perpetrators?
The school has conducted “wellness check-ins” and offered “restorative mediation” sessions, according to the city Department of Education.
Here’s one thing you can bet: this is not the first time these kids have attacked another child and it won’t be the last.
In the 1990s we learned the benefits of broken-windows policing — prosecuting low-level crimes so that New York’s potential scofflaws would know the authorities were serious about law enforcement and would think twice about escalating to higher level offenses.
Now it’s time to do the same thing in our schools.
There is no doubt that school violence is rising.
New York has seen a surge in violent crime in and near schools.
North Carolina saw instances of crime and violence increase 24% between the 2018-2019 and 2021-2022 school years.
A rise in violence in Denver public schools has led the school board to reconsider its removal of school resource officers from the premises.
Earlier this year Brendan Depa, a 6-foot-6 autistic former foster child in Florida, beat Joan Naydichm, a teacher’s aide, to within an inch of her life after another staffer told him to stop playing on his Nintendo Switch.
Depa had three earlier arrests for battery before the February attack.
His mother has begged for him not to be sent to prison.
It’s clear that Depa never should have been in a classroom with Naydichm in the first place.
Meanwhile, a video release this week shows a Las Vegas teen dragging a teacher into a classroom where he proceeded to rape and murder her.
Indeed, more and more teachers are waking up to brutality in their schools.
Last year teachers in Akron threatened to strike over this violence.
Alexandra Robbins’s book “The Teachers,” which was released earlier this year, chronicles the problem but fails to note how school policies are clearly part of the problem.
Many school leaders blame COVID, but fail to understand what specifically about the pandemic made things worse.
Kids were at home and basic social skills were not being taught and low-level discipline was not being enforced.
How did we get here? Daniel Buck, a former teacher and author of “What Is Wrong With Our Schools?” tells me that even schools that used to be strict about dress codes or tardiness have now let those rules go by the wayside.
Nor is it just bad public schools.
Even many of the so-called “no excuses” charter schools have decided to give students excuses.
Buck, who quit his job teaching at a private school, notes that rather than actual punishment, it’s common for students who “disrespect teachers” to simply return to the classrooms “after a stern talking to” or even just “a hug and a bag of chips.”
Administrators, explains Buck, often say they have “bigger fish to fry” than worrying about attendance.
But he adds, “if you don’t deal with small things, bigger fish come along.
You will get more cruelty and bullying.”
The standards for student behavior are set early and they influence how seriously children take authority later on.
One boy in my son’s class belched through an entire standardized test.
A girl in my daughter’s camp kept dropping things on her in the middle of the night.
To the extent there are any consequences for these annoying — though not violent — behaviors, they involve yet another chat with a social worker.
But what about the offender — what about actual punishment?
Buck cites the line often repeated to teachers: “All behavior is communication.”
In other words, the kids are acting out “because they’re hungry or not getting enough hugs at home.”
But Buck adds that “sometimes they are just acting out because they’re 13 and need detention. It’s really not more complicated than that.”
If someone had tried using such common sense a few years ago, maybe an 11-year-old Brooklyn girl wouldn’t need protection walking around her middle school today.