Are public schools a contributing factor to Colorado-style school massacres?

WASHINGTON, DC — Public schools may be a contributing factor in the recent spate of school shootings — which is why parents who are concerned about their children being gunned down in a Littleton, Colorado-style massacre may want to consider placing them in private schools or homeschooling them, the Libertarian Party suggested today.
“All the recent school shootings have occurred in government-run facilities, so we have to ask: What is it about public education that seems to foster these kinds of tragedies?” asked Steve Dasbach, the party’s national director.

“After all, high schools should provide an education — not a death sentence. If government schools cannot assure safety, then perhaps parents should start looking for alternatives.”

Dasbach’s comments followed the horrific massacre on Tuesday at the Columbine High School near Denver, Colorado. At least 13 students and teachers were killed by guns and pipe bombs after two students went on a rampage.

Unfortunately, the tragedy in Littleton was part of an increasingly common trend: At least six similar school shootings have occurred over the past 18 months, killing 14 people and wounding another 46, noted Dasbach.

All the shootings happened at public schools, which prompts Libertarians to ask: What’s wrong with government schools?

“We’re not suggesting that public education in and of itself caused these shootings,” said Dasbach. “However, it’s a fair question to ask — on behalf of grieving parents who have lost their beloved children — whether there is something about the culture of public education that encourages these kinds of gruesome events.”

And, in fact, there is evidence that public schools are more vulnerable to mass shootings because of federal and state regulations, the massive size of many government schools, and the lack of control by parents over school policies, he said.

For example, federal and state mandates make it very difficult for government schools to remove dangerous students or enforce standards of conduct, he noted.

“State and federal funding comes with strings attached: Public schools are required to maintain certain graduation rates and required to minimize drop-out rates,” noted Dasbach. “This means that schools will lose some of their funding if they expel too many students. So many public schools allow dangerous students — and students who exhibit the same kind of disturbing behaviors as did the teenage killers in Colorado — to stay in school, putting all the other students at risk.

“Government schools also have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to expel or discipline unruly students. So students can push the boundaries of acceptable behavior without facing serious consequences.

“By comparison, most private schools have much stricter standards of conduct, and much more liberal policies about expelling troublemakers,” he said. “There is no so-called right to attend private schools, so discipline and safety take precedence over turning a blind eye to disturbed or dangerous students.”

The size of many government schools also seems to be a factor, he said.

“Columbine High School had close to 2,000 students. In such a massive educational factory, there is simply no way that teachers or guidance counselors can treat each student like a unique individual, and learn about their unique hopes and troubles.

“By comparison, private schools tend to be smaller, and can devote more personal attention to students. That’s even more true with homeschooling, where loving parents can lavish attention on their own children,” he said.

Finally, public schools, run by government bureaucrats, taught by politically powerful unionized blocks of teachers, funded by mandatory tax payments, and populated by students who are required by law to attend, make it more difficult for parents to exercise real control over the school environment, he said.

“In government schools, parents are not customers — they are supplicants to the political process that funds and manages those schools,” said Dasbach. “As a parent, you have only marginally more influence over public schools than you have over the Post Office or the DMV. As a result, you have very little control over the curriculum, policies, or employees that determine your child’s educational environment in public schools.

“By comparison, at a private school, if you want stricter safety policies, or tighter controls over dangerous students’ behavior, or better educational standards, they must listen to you — because, if they don’t, you can take your business elsewhere. And homeschoolers have almost complete control over their children’s educational environment.”

So, what’s the solution to the epidemic of school shootings?

“There is no perfect answer, and we can’t promise that such a tragedy will never occur in a private school,” acknowledged Dasbach. “However, it’s clear that government schools make the problem worse, not better — and that moving in the direction of a free market educational system would make our children safer, and would make a Columbine High School-style tragedy a rare exception, rather than a growing problem.”

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NEWS FROM THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY
2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100
Washington DC 20037
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For release: April 22, 1998
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For additional information:
George Getz, Press Secretary
Phone: (202) 333-0008 Ext. 222
E-Mail: 76214.3676%40Compuserve.com
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