The daily newspaper in its continued love affair with Escambia School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas has praised the “success” of the school district’s drug prevention initiative. With little proof that there was ever an issue with illegal drugs on campus, Thomas launched last year on-campus drug searches using drug dogs from the Sheriff’s Office and Pensacola Police Department at a cost of about $36,000.
The canine units made 352 searches and only found small quantities of drugs seven times. Was there ever a problem, or was the invasive program a success? The school district proclaims the latter and points to the drop in drug-related expulsions.
In 2010-11, there were 36 drug-related expulsions in high schools and 17 in middle schools. That compares to 72 in high schools and 20 in middle schools in 2009-10. However, Thomas has already touted that his goal was to reduce this past year all expulsions in the school system. Were these expulsions because of the overall policy of more tolerance or the canine searches? Again Thomas proclaims the latter, of course.
As our paper has repeatedly pointed out, the issue in Escambia County public schools isn’t drugs on campus—it is violence and classroom discipline. Teachers, parents and students feel unsafe and believe that they have little support from their school administrations or the Pace Boulevard Palace.
The teachers’ union appears to be more concerned with pay scales and benefits. Workplace safety doesn’t appear to be an issue for them.
Teachers are left on an island, pressured to not report disruptions in their classrooms and made to believe violence in their classrooms is their fault. The more disruptive students know this and take advantage of it.
One teacher told me that she had been called “bitch” so many times by her students that she had begun thinking that was her name.
The violence in the schools is not the superintendent’s fault. We live in a violent community where we read daily about teenagers killing, shooting, stabbing and robbing each other and adults. That behavior most definitely spills over into the middle and high schools.
The school system must meet this challenge head on. The schools need to be safe havens where violence will not be tolerated and discipline enforced. Teachers must have the support from the administration so that they can focus on teaching, not babysitting.
The school board and administration should set as their goal to make our schools the safest in the state.