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How School Chaos From Lax Standards Can Lead To Teens Bringing A Gun


This past week, an 18-year-old student at Timberview High School in Mansfield, Texas shot and wounded three students and an English teacher. Apparently, a fight broke out between him another student who was 15 years old, the teacher and another student broke it up, and the shooter took out his gun and fired at people shortly after.

Less than two days later, the shooter was released on bail, and his parents cited bullying as the reason for their son’s crime. On multiple occasions, other students attacked, robbed, and harassed him “due to the fact that he had more things than maybe others,” according to the family’s spokesperson. They say this is why he brought a firearm to school.

As with other shootings, gun-control advocates have used this tragedy as an occasion to call for more laws against gun ownership. However, considering that the shooter broke the law by possessing a firearm in the first place, it’s difficult to see how making more gun-control laws would make a difference.

Instead of guns, what merits more attention in this matter is the issue of bullying, which seems to be an ongoing problem in large public schools. In various forms and places (online and at school), students are not getting along and many are being victimized by unhappy kids.

Before considering what schools are doing (or not doing) to combat bullying, it should be said from the outset that parents have the biggest responsibility to teach their children how to confront bullies and how not to become bullies themselves. At the very least, this means not excusing their misbehavior and not throwing them homecoming parties while their child’s victims are still in the ICU, as the shooter’s parents did.

Less Discipline, Less Learning

For their part, educators need to do more with discipline. Besides offering scripted advisory lessons on bullying and depression, many school leaders have wrongly addressed bullying by relaxing standards on all fronts to relieve pressure on supposedly overburdened students.

Students who misbehave are often no longer suspended or given detention, but are given a warning and sent back to class. Moreover, many of those classes include long stretches of free time and academic expectations are incredibly low, meaning failure is virtually impossible.

District leaders benefit enormously by reducing the number of suspensions, expulsions, and failures, and have fewer struggling students to remediate and reform. By changing the standards, their job becomes much easier and they look strong and effective in the process.

Unfortunately, this loosening approach has made so many otherwise decent public schools dangerous and chaotic. Bullying and rowdiness have become more commonplace, similar to Philadelphia schools after their school leaders banned suspensions.

Needless to say, very little learning is happening, and so much of a school holding together depends on the cooperation of the students and their families — which has taken something of a hit after a year of so many COVID-19 restrictions. When that cooperation isn’t there, events like the shooting at Timberview High School become more likely.

The details of the shooting suggest it could have been prevented. First, at 18 years old, the shooter had no business being in a sophomore English class with 15-year-olds. At that point, he should be recovering credits at an alternative campus or studying for his GED.

Second, he and his classmates should have sat apart and busy working, not having ample downtime during class to get into an altercation. Third, if there was a pattern of bullying between the shooter and certain underclassmen, some kind of intervention should’ve happened long before now.

In other words, a school with stricter academic and behavioral standards could have prevented this tragedy.

In many ways, a school is like a city. When a city reduces law enforcement and relaxes laws, crime proliferates and the general quality of life declines. This precipitates an exodus of employers and residents, leaving the city poorer and rougher, which then perpetuates more crime, etc. American Mind editor Seth Barron charts the course of this vicious cycle in “The Last Days of New York,” describing how New York City was once a world-class city that survived the largest terrorist attack of the past century that turned into a desolate leftist cesspool that has succumbed to COVID-19 hysteria.

Similarly, when a school stops punishing students who misbehave and relaxes expectations in class, incidents of bullying will skyrocket while the general academic performance and morale of students will plummet. This leads to frequent conflicts between students, drug abuse, truancy, and uncontrollable classrooms. Like their mayoral counterpart Bill De Blasio, so many progressivist school leaders will address this with even more ineffective discipline-averse gimmicks that replace punishment and correction with tepid sermons and indulgence.

Establishing Order Reduces Conflict

A school’s culture determines whether students in the school achieve and get along or flounder and resort to violence. True, strict discipline and holding kids accountable for their learning will result in more kids being suspended, sent to alternative campuses for discipline, failing classes, and even dropping out altogether. But it will also result in safer classes, happier students, and higher-achieving schools. And considering the amount of taxes American citizens devote to their public schools, a safe and orderly place for learning is the least parents should expect.

Moreover, besides benefitting the great majority of the student body, stricter standards will benefit the minority of students who misbehave. Students largely act out for three reasons: (1) they’re in an unstable environment that encourages aggression, (2) they can’t do the work, and (3) they often have no work to do. Therefore, establishing order, focusing on content, and keeping students busy would go a long way to reducing conflicts that can erupt in the classroom.

Administrators should support teachers’ efforts since they will face pushback from students who have become used to the dysfunction. No one is helped, especially the problematic student allowed to terrorize a classroom and continue falling behind academically while being given no serious attention.

Every school shooting is deeply devastating, and the one at Timberview High School is no different. No parent should fear for his child’s life, no teacher should fear the possibility of being shot by his own student, and no student should fear a desperate classmate trying to kill him. Among other things, such fear is the antithesis of learning and wellbeing. All of us deserve better, and we should demand as much before the next tragedy happens.