A couple years ago, officials in Georgia thwarted an alleged plot by a group of third-grade special-education students to kill their teacher. According to the story, various versions of which were published by news outlets and websites across the state, administrators at Waycross’ Center Elementary School learned of the plan when a student told authorities about it.
Officials found the group of boys and girls had brought a broken knife, duct tape, handcuffs, ribbon and a crystal paperweight to school in a bid to kill their teacher, who apparently angered the children when she disciplined one of them for standing on a chair.
Under Georgia law, no one younger than 13 can be charged with a crime, but that certainly does not mean the students in that case — and other situations like it that crop up all too frequently — should get off scot-free.
Most teachers pour their hearts and souls into their work. Now, more than ever, they should be seen as authority figures who should at all times be respected and obeyed by students. Education is a precursor to adulthood. Children are in school to learn. They are not there for enjoyment or entertainment, and teachers are not facilitators of fun. Educators are there to teach, instruct and keep students safe.
Has it really gotten to the point where teachers no longer can scold a student who jeopardizes his or her own personal safety? If the same teacher who wouldn’t allow a student to stand on a chair had done nothing to stop the child from climbing on furniture and the student had fallen, the teacher surely would have faced disciplinary action.
Students must learn at home that teachers should be treated with dignity and courtesy. Even without the absence of parental involvement or interference, educators have numerous distractions to compete with in the classroom. Futhermore, fear of lawsuits limits teachers’ disciplinary options.
That’s not to say a teacher’s presence alone demands respect from students and parents. Teachers also must do their part to earn respect in the classroom by behaving like people students will want to model themselves after. Honesty, integrity and optimism — qualities nearly everyone values and would want to imitate — increasing are important in a society where good morals rapidly are declining.
It is, however, equally as important for parents to emulate good behavior at home. They also need to support their children’s teachers and uphold the lessons students pick up at school.
If a student is reasonably punished for misbehaving or causing problems at school and that child’s parent calls the school to protest the punishment, the parent is only teaching the disobedient child that he or she is above reproach and will not be held accountable for less-than-desirable actions. Children whose parents defend their wrongdoing grow up to believe they will face no consequences for their behavior. They have no incentive to develop into upstanding, responsible members of the community.
And, overall, educators and pupils must cooperate. There always will be subjects and assignments children do not enjoy, just as teachers are obligated to tackle tasks they may not always find appealing. But a classroom is a place of learning in which pupils and educators have to collaborate in order to produce work and results that meet high standards. When teachers provide the guidance and support necessary to ensure academic success, students should accept it.