How the City Public Schools Failed Our Family

by yohewriter

City public schools have a reputation for providing a poor education. Realizing we could no longer afford private tuition, we sent our son to a magnet school. Here is our story.

My wife and I have always been strong advocates of private education. Our children have the Catholic foundation established in our neighborhood school. Public instruction has never been an option for us because we firmly believed our city was not able to provide the tutelage we were seeking.
Once the cost of private schooling became too much for us to feasibly handle, we were faced with what we felt were dire options. We finally did choose public schools. Our emotions throughout the whole process ran from great optimism to controlled fear to utter shock.

School in Shambles - Gary, Indiana
School in Shambles - Gary, Indiana

The Public School Option

A Tough Decision

After much deliberation, and the full realization that our beloved private school was no longer feasible, my wife and I decided that we would give public schools a chance. We were familiar with a magnet school in our neighborhood that seemed quite popular. We checked into it and discovered that entrance enrollment was based on a lottery.

We filled out the application for this lottery and then we waited. It is a little confusing as to how they "pull names" for the schools because there are considerations to take into account, even though it is supposed to be random.

Diversity is a huge determinant within a school's culture and so once your ethnic background is categorically filled, your chances of securing a slot are pretty slim. This is the position we figured our son would fall in as non-minority. The deadline came and went. He didn't make it into the magnet school as we had hoped. 

A Magnet School
A Magnet School
Flickr - kopper

Strange Twist of Fate

Fate was not to keep our son from gracing the doorways of a magnet school, however. Literally, in the 11th hour, we received a phone call from the principal of the school on a Sunday night, the first week of school. She wanted to know if we were still interested in our son attending pre-kindergarten and, if so, how soon could we get all the paperwork in for her?

We were very excited! We had thought for certain, since there was no way to afford private education, that we would be homeschooling again. Our two oldest children were home schooled and had recently graduated. They were doing fine and so we were prepared to continue the tradition.

Now, everything changed at the last minute and we were relieved. We had driven by the school on nearly every weekday and saw the many cars dropping off students. It had a great reputation and finally we were to be blessed in joining that same line of cars we consistently saw at 8:45 a.m.

A New Environment

The new school was intimidating for all of us. We were unsure of what to expect, and our son was completely frightened of this new environment. It took us a while to finally start getting comfortable with this public school. We never were totally settled because we always felt that something wasn't right with this decision, we just couldn't figure out exactly what it was. Our son would cry every morning before the bell rang and would cling onto my wife for dear life. She was really concerned and many times cried in the parking lot after he went inside. So we talked with his teacher.

Morning Dropoff
Morning Dropoff
Flickr - Aaron Knox

The Meeting

We met with her in the classroom and she told us that once we left and he got inside, he was perfectly fine. So, believing what she had told us, we kept bringing him to school, hoping that the crying would wear off. It is common for a child to play off of parents' emotions in an effort to get what they want. The key is to hold fast and not give in to your emotions. The crying will stop. And over time, his crying did subside for the most part. He wouldn't cry every day, but he hated going to that school. We couldn't figure out why.

Our concerns became overwhelming when, 12 weeks into the school year, our son would literally throw fits in the morning because he did not want to go to class. He always loved school. We learned of his passion for learning and socializing with his short time in private school. But here, in the magnet school, something just wasn't right. We thought perhaps he was being bullied, but no one fit the picture. Then one day, everything changed. 

A Sad Day

I went into the gym one afternoon to pick up my son, as I had done everyday prior. Usually when he saw me he would jump up and run over to me and give me a big hug. Not today. Instead, he just sat on the floor with his head down and his folder, torn, in his hands. I knew something was wrong right away. His teacher, would was standing directly behind him saw me approaching, but said absolutely nothing regarding my son's condition. I scooped him up and we left.


Boy Crying
Boy Crying

Because we cannot offer proof without a doubt and actual visual evidence cannot be acquired and submitted, I will just say an incident happened that in our minds should never have transpired. Our son is a quiet and shy boy who has some issues with communicating, but he is not a troublemaker. There were no behavioral issues that we were aware of nor had any been communicated to us. As a result of this incident his is visibly scared of the mere mention of returning, being deeply traumatized, and we had to withdraw him from the magnet school.  

Contacting Administration

We made an attempt to resolve our issue with the principal, writing a very lengthy email stating all of our concerns. Ultimately, the principal did not do anything for us except suggest we have a meeting with her and the teachers involved. It seemed as though the principal was in defense of the teacher and we never heard a single word from the teacher involved. No phone calls, nothing. So we decided that a meeting would not yield any positive results, it would simply be a session of administrators defending each other with no admission of what really happened to him. 

We were shocked by how this situation was handled. It seemed as if they really didn't care about our son or the relationship with us as parents. The principal seemed to be very motivated and involved with the students. We really liked that aspect. But once backed into the corner of problem resolution, it was as if the hands were tied. There is an unspoken philosophy that each school must function according to certain general standards and, if your child has issues with conforming to these standards, than the school is not a good fit for him or her. I believe, at least inn this instance, that a child with a low tolerance cannot do well in the public schools, nor is there time or funding to address any relevant issues.

After withdrawing him from the school, we found out we were not the only parents who had the exact same problem.

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What Did We Learn?

On a positive note, I think what we learned from our exposure is that the public schools aren't as bad as we initially had assumed. There are good experiences to be taken from the classrooms and there are also some great teachers, dedicated to making public schools a better place for children.

I also think, though, that parents have made the educational environment more challenging because discipline at home can tend to fall into one of two categories. The first, which I have seen becoming more prevalent, is the simple lack of disciplining a child. Parents aren't putting their foot down and teaching their children how to behave. The culture of always telling your child "yes" has created an environment that they will get whatever they want and they can act however they like and no one should say anything to them. It has gotten so bad for some parents that the children are in charge, with the parents held captive to their child's every whim. All they may gently say is "Stop doing that." The child, however, will not listen and continues with the bad behavior.

On the other hand, there are the parents who take discipline too far and physically beat their children. Now it is true that a good butt-smacking will snap a child out of his or her bad behavior, but I think perhaps for some, it goes too far. This builds up an immunity to physical discipline in the child and requires teachers and administrators to raise the bar to uncomfortable levels to maintain discipline in the schools.


Concluding Thoughts

Although I did not fully reveal what the incident was that happened to our son, I think you might be able to ascertain it involved discipline. In our minds this is where the public schools failed us. There was zero communication regarding any negative issues with him, if there were any. Worst of all, what happened on that last day I picked him up from school will forever be embedded in our minds. We are in shock that something like this could have occurred. The environment is now a hostile one. Our son was deeply traumatized and we are furious that this issue was never resolved, but simply swept under the rug. It is certainly understandable that disciplining school children is very challenging, but when communication is broken down, so is the entire educational system. 

Updated: 03/11/2015, yohewriter
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yohewriter on 03/10/2015

Many thanks katiem2 for your comments!

We did get a taste of the gifted programs that are offered through public schools. In fact, had things worked out, we were going to at least have our son tested to see if he qualified. They are a great program, but you are correct, if the teachers aren't "gifted" themselves, then the classroom can break down quickly.

Teachers do, I think, have unspoken rules of conduct based on where you are teaching and the demographic your children are coming from in the area. A child from a wealthier family might be treated differently than one from the inner city. Closer monitoring is certainly a consideration and I like the idea that the teachers themselves should be thoroughly tested.

Calling out bad teachers is our parental duty, even if it means enduring some discomfort or possible backlash. Some individuals should never have stepped into a classroom as a teacher

Thank you!.

yohewriter on 03/10/2015

Thank you burntchestnut for your thoughts!
I purposely left out the discipline action because the incident is controversial and I'm trying to minimize possible local conflict. The school has had more than one incident lately, one making the local newspaper.
My son is becoming more vocal, so we do not see his communication in the future as being as much an issue. Choice can be very difficult, unless you are forced to choose your neighborhood school. I am happy to hear you and your son have had good experiences as I did as a child.
Thank you so much!!

katiem2 on 03/07/2015

What a difficult and long journey. I have two daughters, both gifted as they like to label highly intelligent kids. My youngest a junior in high school, the oldest now a freshman in college received a scholarship, many in fact, in the honors and scholars program of chemistry. She is doing very well.

My kids attended(s) public schools but we are very lucky to have strong gifted programs offering advanced placement and International Baccalaureate programs and degrees in high schools. It was very difficult being a parent of gifted children in public schools. You have to fight hard.

BUT I must say having traveled the road and been in a great school district, from our perspective the most difficult challenge was ALWAYS the teachers! It is hard to make teachers, who are not in gifted programs teach smart children. It is my belief a very large number of people become teachers who should not and those people are either incompetent to teach or not emotionally stable to do so and or both.

The biggest travesty of our society is the horrific emotional damage teachers do to our young people. They have far more rights than they should, they should be more closely monitored and strictly tested to insure they in fact are competent to perform their jobs! Bottom line they are working with the future of our society and have no right to do one single thing to ever jeopardize the well being or development of any child, just saying. Teaches really need to be kept in their place and don't even start jumping on this comment, you will embarrass yourself, good teachers agree!!!

I praise and support good teaches, mentors and the like 110% I give them my time, monetary support and emotional support but I am the first to call the bad ones out! We all should!!! I hear people talk about becoming teachers all the time because they can't figure out what they want to do, they pick teaching because they figure it will be an easy gig, lots of paid time off, good benefits and an easy course study, comeon haven't you heard they same???? I always tell them they should be ashamed of themselves and talk them out of it!!! I tell them I will follow their career very carefully if they do so...

AngelaJohnson on 03/03/2015

Thanks for sharing your story, although it's incomplete because we don't know what the incident was. Every school has its good and bad teachers as well as good or bad administrators. I've even heard horror stories about Catholic schools. It's too bad parents can't choose which school to send their children; often a child has to attend the school that's in the district. I'm glad I had a good school experience all through my school years, and so did my son. I hope your young son learns to speak up for himself and doesn't have to endure whatever he had to go through again.

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