The school safety debate: Mollycoddle no more

Katherine Kersten:

A St. Paul Central High School teacher is choked and body-slammed by a student and hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury. A teacher caught between two fighting fifth-grade girls is knocked to the ground with a concussion. Police are compelled to use a chemical irritant to break up a riot at Como Park High School.

Increasingly, some St. Paul Public Schools resemble a war zone. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi has branded the trend of violence “a public health crisis.” Teachers threatened to strike over the dangers they face, and their safety was a pivotal issue in recently concluded contract negotiations. “We are afraid,” one told the Pioneer Press.

Though many — including St. Paul school officials — seem reluctant to acknowledge it, the escalating violence and disorder follow a major change in school disciplinary policies. In recent years, district leaders have increasingly removed consequences for misbehavior, and led kids to believe they can wreak havoc with impunity.