I've seen a new attack from liberals on social media in the last few weeks as they try to paint Republicans and school choice advocates as being horrible, angry elitists who want to take funding away from students. This is mostly centered around Betsy DeVos, President Trump's secretary of education.
All of a sudden, liberals who want the choice to end a human life want to vilify parents who want a choice in which type of institution best suits their child's educational needs.
Whether DeVos is qualified to become the education secretary will continue to be heavily debated on social media. But for anti-school choice advocates, I'd like to share a story with you about my children.
As the mother of 16- and 9-year-old boys, I'm very familiar with the public education system. I grew up attending public school during a time when bullying was common but rarely discussed. When my oldest child attended school, it seemed it had progressed to a new stage that shocked even me. Bullying progressed with the help of technology and, as I wrote in 2014 for the Good Men Project, is so easily captured on cell phones and shared immediately that it stays with our children for their entire lives.
After my oldest child was victimized by cyber bullying in junior high school, we began looking for other schooling options for our children. We were very lucky, I admit. This was in Idaho where some private schools cost the same as daycare. My youngest was able to attend kindergarten full-time with an afterschool program that worked for us financially. As working parents, the cost to work sometimes outweighs the income you're bringing home.
After two years, my husband received military orders and we eventually moved to Arlington, Va., where the only affordable option was public school. It was less than two months into the school year when things started going downhill.
My youngest began complaining daily about being sick. Over the course of several months, we discovered my son had been horribly attacked, not just once, but multiple times at school. Once this occurred in the bathroom, but usually it was at recess or outside the classroom. One boy held my son down and choked him while his friends pinned my son's arms to the ground.
Police reports were filed, meetings with school officials were held, and parents were contacted. As the year progressed, so did the attacks. The police told us the boy was too young to discipline and his parents had refused to allow school officers into their home to discuss the attacks. Education officials told us the boy was losing his recess privileges but he was never suspended.
One day, my son fell from the monkey bars and smacked the back of his head on the concrete. While the teacher knew this, she didn't tell the nurse even though my son said he felt dizzy. During a separate incident, I had to rush my son to the urgent care, and then the emergency room, because the doctors were afraid he'd been kicked in the private parts so hard it may require surgery.
During this time, my husband was deployed overseas and I was leaving work almost daily to get my son from school. I began receiving emails and warning letters saying I could be arrested if he missed more days despite the school knowing he was absent because he had been injured or was too afraid to go.
After several meetings with officials, we then discovered further disturbing news. To ensure no one felt left out, the children were not allowed to tell another student they didn't want to play with them at recess. If a student asked if they could join in, the other children could not say "no." They were forced to play with all students even if the day before that child had choked them and pinned them down on the concrete.
A second policy prevented children from telling school officials when they were attacked. If it happened at recess, the child was only allowed to tell the teacher on duty. Once class started again, they weren't allowed to talk about it anymore.
During a meeting with the teacher and principal, the teacher admitted she had implemented this policy because she thought it was unfair that her students were coming back to class and "talking about another student behind his back." The truth was, this boy was abusing several children and these children only felt safe telling authorities once they were safely back inside the school. As my husband put it, the teacher's policy had created a 15-minute statute of limitations.
For us, knowing the school wasn't protecting our son and wasn't going to try to protect our son helped me make the decision to pull him from school. I'd already received threatening letters that I would be dragged in front of a judge, so this was not an easy decision to make. I didn't want to be arrested, especially with my husband overseas. I took the chance and removed my son from school and homeschooled him for what remained of the year.
Because of my husband's new military orders, we now live in Maryland. We again researched the schools and we chose our rental home based on which schools we hoped had the best education system. Rent is expensive and we have to make ends meet. We still can't afford a yearly vacation, let alone private school tuition. The education system here isn't perfect, but it's a significant improvement.
We consider ourselves very lucky to be able to make it work. Many parents don't have that option. They can't choose their rental home based on the school they want their child to attend, and they pay taxes for a public education system that lets their children be abused by other students.
Parents know what is best for their children, and they deserve a choice. Whether that's a charter school, a private school, home schooling or public education. Vilifying parents who want to make their own choices for their children is absurd. The real problem is telling parents they must allow their children to be placed in bad situations at a public school because someone else thinks that's what is best for everyone.
But don't tell a liberal that "choice" is a good thing unless it's the "choice" to end the life of an unborn child.
Elizabeth Peace (@_epeace) is a former journalist who now works on Capitol Hill. She's an author, an advocate for children, and a former Airman now married to a U.S. Marine.
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