School Sued For Saving Lives

When a 15-year-old boy plots to shoot up his high school, whose fault is it? The school, of course.

Thanks to a tip, nobody was killed at Laguna Creek High School, near Sacramento. Two students were arrested. But the parents of a 15-year-old freshman who was arrested plan to sue the school district and the sheriff for $6 million, reports the Sacramento Bee. The family's lawyer said the kid really planned "suicide by cop," not a massacre targeting black students and others.

The first claim accuses the school district of not providing the teen with trained counselors when his mother sought help for her disturbed son.

The second claim accuses the Sheriff's Department of providing the media with false information about the "racial component" of the incident.

"This was blown out of proportion. The NAACP got involved, and there was no reason. Somebody is at fault, and we are working to determine who that is," (lawyer J. Jeffries) Goodwin said Wednesday.

He disputed claims by law enforcement authorities that the student intended to break into a store to steal weapons and attack the school with guns and explosives.

"This boy was going to take a BB gun to school so that he could be killed," Goodwin said. "There was no burglary attempt to get guns. There were no bombs. This was going to be a suicide."

Well, then, no problem. A few sessions with a school counselor would have cured him in no time.

In the first news story, the defendant's father is quoted as saying the boy had confessed.

But the father conceded that his son told him during the jail visit about the plot. "He admitted to wanting to steal guns from Big 5 and take them to school and shoot people."

The tipster said the suspects claimed their goal was to "beat Columbine's record" of deaths, then kill themselves afterward.

In letters to the editor, Bee readers comment on the lawsuit. Unfavorably.

Teachers Protest Students

At a Tucson charter school, teachers went on strike demanding students work harder and show respect. From the Tucson Citizen:

Students arriving at Cesar Chavez Middle School and Aztlan Academy yesterday were met with striking teachers in the parking lot carrying signs. The messages on the signs: "We're tired of excuses," "I Quit Until You Care," "Quit Wasting Your Time," "Quit Stealing Our Time" and "Try, Damn It, Try."

All 16 teachers and administrators at the charter middle and high school took part in the strike, which prompted some of the older students to go into the school building at 3376 S. Sixth Ave. and take charge of the approximately 200 students.

..."If I were a teacher I'd be out here, also," said Beatrice Baltierrez, 18, a student at the schools for five years. She said some of the students wrote letters of apology.

The teachers' strike ended with a schoolwide meeting to discuss solutions, including, "Be committed to getting your education instead of complaining and making excuses."

Saive Oure Skules

Poor spelling  and punctuation doomed a letter-writing campaign against new charter schools in Massachusetts.

All the proof state Board of Education member Roberta Schaefer needed to OK controversial new charter schools were the letters before her from public school students.

Schaefer ridiculed the letters against a proposed school in Marlboro for their missing punctuation and sloppy spelling -- including a misspelling of the word "school" in one missive.

"If I didn't think a charter school was necessary, these letters have convinced me the high school was not doing an adequate job in teaching English language arts," Schaefer said.

The Marlboro-based Advanced Math and Science Academy and charter schools in Cambridge, Lynn and Barnstable were approved.

Graduate Yourself

Number 2 Pencil  points to an entrepreneurial twist: Students who can't pass their state's exit exam can get an official-looking diploma from a private school, North Atlantic Regional High in Maine. Haitian immigrants are using North Atlantic to get around the reading portion of the Florida graduation exam, reports the Miami Herald.

Two years after arriving from Port-au-Prince, Edison High student Stephania Fourron had learned enough English to pass the math portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, but failed the reading exam three times.

She could not receive a diploma, could not start college, could not study nursing -- until a community activist offered her a novel solution from 1,600 miles away.

For a $255 fee, a private school designed for home-schooled students in Lewiston, Maine, offered to accept her course credits from Edison and issue a diploma -- even though she has never attended classes there. Within weeks, Fourron was able to begin classes at Miami Dade College.

Of course, without basic reading skills, it's unlikely Fourron will understand college nursing texts.

This is a great racket for North Atlantic, but eventually students will wise up. They can claim to be homeschooled and award themselves free diplomas. The piece of paper will be worth nothing without the skills it claims to represent; ultimately, that's true of all diplomas.

Jumping for Darwin

You've heard of the Darwin Awards for people who voluntarily terminate their unfit genes? In a science class at Miami Beach High, a teacher bet a student that he'd be injured if he tried to prove his point about evolution by jumping out the window of the second-story classroom. The student jumped without injury, winning the $20 bet. The teacher will be reassigned -- probably to a ground-floor classroom.


Tony Zito of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., writes: 

In eighth grade, my pal and I had figured out this annoying honking sound that drove teachers nuts. It sounded like a duck to the teacher, so one day he blew his top and told us we had to write "I hate ducks" 1,500 times by the next morning. He ended up accepting a little under a thousand from each of us, which, believe me, we did not take as a sign of softness on his part.  And sure, it was “corporal punishment” of a mild sort -- I was tired and sore in a couple of places -- but, sheesh! the guy was going out of his way to NOT spank kids.

No more quacking, anyway.

Fred Moehrle of Whitmore Lake, Mich., writes: 

Our children have learned that "I forgot my homework" means that they will be sitting at the table after dinner writing "I will not forget my homework." We have them do about 25 lines. We find that this works for about three months. My wife and I will let the first instance go with a warning, the second gets the lines, the third extra lines and loss of computer time. We haven't had to go beyond the third yet.

James J. Jochen of College Station, Texas, says: 

Weak parents who fear common sense discipline should have attended St. Rose School in Schulenburg, Texas, in the 1930s, when it was run by nuns, or Schulenburg High School in the same era. Pages and pages of sentences and switches on the arms and hands and slappings at the head with books were the rule of nuns. In high school, every room was equipped with a paddle. The teacher decided on the lowest permissible grade on quizzes, below which a paddling was administered to both male and female students. Schools today are totally without discipline, and, thus, without opportunity for meaningful education.

Edward Steele of Fairbanks, Alaska, writes: 

People wonder where our society will be in the next generation. We can look at any third world country to pick our destiny and lay the cause on the education establishment and ourselves.

My daughter from Vietnam spent less than one year in school. Her writing has the beauty of calligraphy. The kids in Vietnam are expected to work hard and study hard, which is posted in classrooms as their duty to their country. The schools where I worked (during a humanitarian mission) taught kids English starting at a young age. And this was in one of the poorest provinces.

China demands hard work from their kids: Only the best and brightest willing to work hard get to advance in education. My Chinese daughter knew how to count at three (when adopted). Within a few months she met English language milestones for any three-year-old.

While we worry about poor self esteem for our under-performers we forget that education is the basis of societal advancement. Today we look to cheap goods made in China. But they are the third nation to put a man in space. If we continue failing to demand performance of our children, when will the direction of intellectual flow reverse?

We need to remember that school (like work) is not about fun. It is about learning and preparation for the future. We can either ill-prepare our youth and live with the consequences (when we are ready for Social Security) or fix our system before it is too late.

My kids are home schooled now.

Joanne Jacobs writes about education and other issues at She’s writing a book, Ride the Carrot Salad, about a start-up charter high school in San Jose.

Respond to the Writer