Landers’ first conflict with her public school came when her 17-year-old son witnessed a high school classmate threaten a third student with a knife and reported it to the school authorities under promised anonymity. A week later, the knife-wielding student threatened her son for making the report, and Landers found the school’s response frustrating at every turn. She filed a separate report with the police, who told her that if it happened again, her son should step off campus and call 911.
“We don’t know what happens in the school,” she says the officers told her. Still, the school claimed it couldn’t remove the threatening student from her son’s bus route or classes.
“The other student has rights, too,” she says administrators told her.
Landers didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first of many times she would hear that phrase in place of disciplinary action against students who endangered her children with behavior went far beyond the normal playground spats most of us remember from our own childhoods.