I Like This Feeling

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by Tammy Drennan

Originally published in Alliance e-Notes, Vol. 1, No. 1, January 25, 2007

For twenty years I’ve been fielding calls from desperate parents of public schooled children. Back in the early days, the complaints were bad enough — children spending seven hours a day in school and learning nothing, merciless taunting by classmates and officials who wouldn’t do a thing about it, cutting remarks by teachers.


Today’s scene is scarier and more heartbreaking.


Let me tell you a few of the stories I’ve heard over the past couple of years. I’d rather not have to relate these stories. When I write I try to express myself in ways that most parents would feel comfortable allowing their teens to read. I can’t do that this time. Some truths can’t be wrapped in comfortable euphemisms.


Let me add that these stories are indeed representative of a bigger picture. I could tell many more than I’m going to share here. Names have been changed to protect the innocent…. 

  • Marie had a daughter who blossomed into womanhood very quickly, drawing the attention of her classmates, both male and female, who felt it perfectly within their prerogative to not only taunt her about it but to routinely grope her. When Marie complained to school officials, they sent her daughter to counseling to “help her understand” the actions of her classmates!! The classmates suffered no consequences or correction.
  • Ann’s daughter found herself on the unwelcome receiving end of a boy’s groping at a school pep rally. The girl pushed the boy, sending him flying down a set of bleachers. He was uninjured, but his two female cousins were outraged. They cornered the girl at school the next day and beat her up, leaving her with some serious but temporary injuries and a promise to reinforce their ranks and finish the job the next day. Ann never sent her daughter back.
  • Joe’s 13-year-old daughter garnered the wrath of a popular girl in school by winning the position of head cheerleader. The miffed girl chased her down after school one day, beat her up and threatened more. Joe took the issue to the school authorities who sentenced his daughter, not the perpetrator, to in-school suspension!! His daughter is now homeschooled.
  • Dianne’s 9-year-old son suffered from some developmental problems that caused him to walk with an unsteady gait, making him a constant target of both verbal and physical assault. School authorities informed Dianne that there was nothing they could do about it.
  • Kathy’s 11-year-old daughter came home from school each day in tears. When questioned she said that her teacher yelled and cursed at the class every day and told them how stupid they were. Complaints to school authorities went unaddressed.
  • Nancy’s 16-year-old daughter spent her junior year of public high school warding off lunch-time sexual suggestions of fellow male students. Nancy tried to help her cope by thinking up witty comebacks for her.
  • Brenda’s two middle school children missed too much school while grieving the loss of their father. In spite of good grades, they were both failed that year.
  • Faye’s 10th grade son suffered from a sleep disorder that caused him to doze off in class. In spite of doctors’ notices and meetings with teachers to explain the disorder, the boy was failed based entirely on the fact that he couldn’t stay awake for a full class period.
  • Donna’s 3rd grade son received a three-week suspension for bringing to school a one-inch long screwdriver he used to do play work on his Matchbox cars. He never understood what made him such a bad boy.
  • Kandy’s 9-year-old son was told every day by a group of classmates that they would kill him by the end of the year. School officials did not feel that this situation merited their attention. 

These are all stories I have personally heard from and discussed with parents. The grumblings of a few disaffected individuals, you think? As I mentioned, it’s the tip of the iceberg in my twenty-year collection of stories. But I went to public school myself; I have plenty of my own stories to tell — and that was 30+ years ago.


Every day in American state schools, thousands upon thousands of children are verbally and physically assaulted, groped, humiliated, cursed at, called stupid, denied privacy and basic rights, unjustly punished, and the list could go on.


The situation is getting worse, not better. All the feeble character education programs, conflict resolution courses and anger management classes make not a whit of difference. School officials either cannot or will not take effective action. Parents who stand up for their victimized children are labeled trouble-makers and their children suffer the consequences. And how many children don’t dare tell?


Public schools have become institutions of all-around abuse — academic, emotional, psychological and physical. The system makes both the patients and the doctors sicker in every way.


In the end, millions of young adults are spit out, thoroughly prepped for the college social scene of drinking and promiscuity, psychiatrists’ couches, drug and alcohol addiction, dysfunctional relationships and the endless search for love and acceptance. Their words may reflect high self-esteem, but their actions reflect quite the opposite.


The individuals who emerge reasonably whole are the exception, as our institutions and medicines of emotional healing well testify.


The situation would be completely hopeless but for a small and growing element of parents who are opting out of the terminally ill system. This is the hope of the future, our chance to repair the damage, to find renewal, to salvage what’s left and begin to build again.


All of us who are able and who care must find ways to empower these parents and the many more who stand at the edge of freedom’s circle, desperately wanting in but lacking the know-how or options that will work for them.


There is still hope, but the opportunity will not last forever. The move to keep families dependent on state education is strong. It is up to us to educate and empower families. Strong, confident, committed, equipped parents are the only answer to the increasing crisis of state schooling.


Today, I talked with three parents just entering the ranks of the liberated, and my commitment was renewed by their relief and excitement over the hope they’d discovered for their children’s future.


I like being a part of this renewal. I like seeing children freed to become happy, whole adults. It’s a good feeling.