Every resident of Madison has a stake in our public schools. We probably know a student, teacher, coach, or school bus driver. Through those connections, we have a good view of the condition of our schools, a measure of the educational programs, and knowledge concerning the overall character of the students. There are reasons to be proud of the mission teachers take with their lives and we can be equally proud of graduates who have benefited from the educational system.
But we also are aware, from too frequent situations that make for headlines, of the violence and breakdown in social norms that occur at some of our city schools. We expect to see school buses near the curb of such buildings but should not consider it normal to see a number of police squad cars arrayed near a school so to break up fights and try to bring order from the chaos.
Most taxpayers take it for granted that schools should be learning centers that are safe for the students and staff. But they would be wrong if they thought this was actually the case in all of our city schools.
As we move toward the April 5th Spring Election in Wisconsin voters need to be aware of the most prominent issue facing the school district. That is the safety of kids, teachers, and staff. Not only is physical safety an issue, but the need for a calm learning environment in our schools so teaching can take place with learning to follow.
This issue demands more than just headlines after yet another fight or major altercation at a school. The school board needs someone who will highlight the issue and fight for the students who are nervous about heading to classes. Or teachers who are fearful to go to work on days when they have heard rumblings about a flare-up from some students.
Enter David Blaska.
Once again, Blaska is placing his name for consideration as a school board member. His write-in candidacy is for Seat 4, the one now held by Ali Muldrow. The race has drawn some attention, given the recent headlines.
Blaska correctly argues that a school resource police officer should be present in each main high school as a proven way to stop violence and keep classrooms and hallways safe for everyone. Muldrow was an advocate of removing those officers in 2019. Three years later she is now just considering the merits of convening a committee to study school safety. Might I state the United Nations is known to work faster?
We have seen the results of dithering and meandering on this issue. Riots at East High School and just off campus; guns at La Follette, awful violence at West High School. A brutal beating that left a 15-year-old with “three teeth in the front of his mouth that was actually jammed up into his gums”. Very high dental bills will result for the family and as his mother told a local news reporter, “He’s been very depressed. He has talked quite a bit about committing suicide”.
Might it be time for violent students to be held accountable for their actions?
Might it be time for one strong voice on the school board who will stand on behalf of the students and city residents who need to be heard and represented when it comes to outlandish behavior on school grounds?
I did not need very long to consider how to write this post after watching the Saturday night news report about this young man facing an outrageous and unconscionable situation simply because he attended school. Let me put this issue into somewhat of a personal narrative and bring it full circle as to why safety matters and Blaska’s election is warranted.
As a high school student, I was relentlessly bullied. My best friend committed suicide after being bullied. I dreaded school days, was stressed about everything, and though a bookish type of person did not excel academically. I know how it feels to be uneasy in a classroom setting. As such, I can find complete empathy with students in our local schools who are at times fearful about safety at school.
As an adult with life experiences behind me, I know how those years could have been handled. Additionally, it would have been wonderful to have had at least one voice on my local school board standing up for students who faced threats and violence from their peers. We sometimes forget how important it is for each kid to know they have a fighter in their corner.
David Blaska wants to be that fighter for kids who crack open the books and have dreams for their future.
It is completely absurd that any Madison student in 2022 needs to think about anything other than getting high marks. Our youth with college dreams should not have an hour siphoned off their classroom time due to disruptive behavior from those who have no intent to learn.
Let us be honest and state we have a problem with too much violence in our public schools. Let us also be honest and say some on the Board play to the loudest voices in the public square, rather than the need for a solid education for all students.
Finally, I know David to be a great conversationalist, a smart and witty person, and principled. I also know in these highly polarized days it might seem all uphill to ask Madison to give Blaska a fair hearing, and then election to the Board. But I come from a background that I strongly suspect many of my fellow Madisonians know very well.
When confronting an issue that demands to be resolved the coalition of people in support of it may not be the same as the group opposed or in support of another issue tomorrow. But we are adults and know the greater good is what matters. We unite to solve a problem. And folks, we have a very real problem with violence and truly unruly and even dangerous students in our schools.
I suggest parents of students and those who truly yearn for our schools to better perform listen to the words of David Blaska.
And then write his name in for Seat 4 on the Madison School Board. The election is April 5th.
And so it goes.