Over the past several years, there has been a lot of talk about improving school performance. An education is critical to assist a vibrant, informed person not only in getting a job in a field that interests them but also to enable them to make smart/critical decisions about themselves and the world in which they live. Every cause under the sun is talked about concerning poor school performance. What is consistently missing, however, in the discussion is perhaps the primary reason children are not reaching their full potential in the classroom –child abuse in the home.
Elementary school principals and safety experts say they are seeing more violence and aggression than ever among their youngest students. “Some of my most violent kids have been in kindergarten, first and second grade,” an elementary school principal in rural Wisconsin said. Minneapolis schools suspended more than 500 kindergartners between 2001-2003 for fighting, indecent exposure and persistent lack of cooperation. The Palm Beach, Florida school police have brought police officers into elementary schools for the first time, often to deal with parents who became angry when their children were disciplined. A lot of times they are dealing with parents who are very intimidating or violent. Federal figures show that of the 3,523 students who were expelled in the 1998-99 school year for bringing a gun to school, 1 in 10 was in elementary school.1
Nearly 4 million young adults ages 18-24 do not work, are not enrolled in school and lack a degree beyond high school according to an Anne E. Casey Foundation research paper. The young adults are “disconnected” from society. Kids Count, the group’s annual survey of the nation’s children, focused on young adults in 2004 because their problems in childhood continue as they age. The survey found that 3.8 million young adults are cut off from the critical levers of a successful adult life. The disconnected group of young adults increased 19% from 2000 to 2003.2
As I have always said, “You can be the most brilliant teacher in the entire world, but at the end of the day, I am going home to be beaten, ridiculed, and sexually molested. If you don’t think that has an effect on my school work, I don’t know what does.”
1“School Violence Hits Lower Grades,” USA Today, January 13, 2003
2“More Young Adults Disconnected,” Washington Post, June 4, 2004