There are troubling signs of aggression and discord in schools and between students away from school grounds.
This led to a quickly arranged all-day faculty meeting at Ilwaco High School on Dec. 8. The meeting generated more community concern than apparently was intended, after the school district made reference in an online post to the students recently murdered in a school shooting in Oxford, Michigan. There was no immediate threat of deadly violence in Ilwaco.
There are, however, gravely concerning behaviors. In November, for example, police dealt with a report of three teenage girls threatening to beat up another girl and telling her to kill herself.
Ilwaco isn’t the only local campus with problems. Parents cite bullying issues at Hilltop Middle School. The Seaside School District suspended classes on Dec. 7 out of an abundance of caution in response to a possible shooting threat at Seaside High School, which police determined was not credible. A Seaside Middle School student is facing discipline after a bomb threat on social media on Sunday.
There have been heated disagreements at school board meetings in Pacific and Clatsop counties — and across the nation — about pandemic precautions. These arguments happen within the context of bitter national political disputes, which overlap into bad behavior between students. Nor is this toxicity limited to students and their parents — some school faculty members and staff also fall into opposing camps.
For decades, factors like the seasonality of jobs, alcohol and drug abuse and the divide between economic classes have spawned problems in local schools. Much as most of us love it here, we see some of the same societal challenges as metropolitan regions. But we are perfectly capable of being a kind, supportive and reasonably smooth-functioning place.
Our nation is built on a foundation of strong opinions. It would be naive and unhelpful to pretend we’re going to agree on all important matters. Although it is in some ways astounding that Americans would lock horns over virus hygiene and vaccinations, nothing excites stronger pushback than dictates affecting our children. Ongoing public-health education and sympathy may gradually achieve what shaming will not.
Tolerance for differing opinions is one thing. Tolerating hooliganism is something else entirely. School administrators are right to draw a hard line against feuds that threaten to turn violent.
But it isn’t the job of schools to raise decent, respectful and law-abiding children and teens; that vital mission is up to parents and the wider community. Students unable to get along in classrooms and schoolyards must face appropriate consequences — consequences that also make it crystal clear to parents or guardians that we will not put up with disruptive delinquents.