by Frances Edstrom, columnist

A former teacher lent me a book recently, called “Why Meadow Died.” It is about the killing of 17 students and teachers at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day in 2018.

The premise of the book is that the killings at the school were absolutely preventable, and it chronicles the school and county policies that created an atmosphere that allowed a student to kill classmates and teachers without being stopped by anyone.

Among the preventable actions that the authors blamed for the tragic incident are misguided and burdensome federal and district education policies.

That resonated with me, since the Parkland district policies that allowed this shooter to repeatedly demonstrate dangerous behavior without consequence are very much like the policies that the Minnesota Department of Education foisted upon Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) last year.

Very similar to the policies that the former superintendent of schools so strongly defended.

In the name of equality and social justice, Minnesota government has decided, and WAPS has been forced, to implement disciplinary policies that allow students to sow chaos in the classrooms and hallways of our schools and suffer no consequences, or consequences of such little force as to be laughable.

The state wants to reduce the number of suspensions and detentions and other disciplinary actions that it has determined have been meted out unequally to minority and special education students (read: students with severe behavioral issues, not developmental disabilities) in WAPS.

That is a laudable goal. It should be the policy of the public schools to reduce bad and dangerous behavior among its students. Help should be provided by the schools to students who are habitually found to misbehave (and worse).

However, the policies adopted to reduce these numbers are not designed to reduce the behavior that used to prompt detentions and suspensions. They are designed solely to make the data look as though these behaviors have magically disappeared, because the schools no longer mete out consequences for bad behavior.

In other words, so that the numbers sent to the state will look good, students can get away with chronic misconduct of such an egregious nature that most adults have a hard time believing it happens in our schools.

Kids do something wrong, break the rules, curse out a teacher, damage property, vape in class, sexually assault and harass classmates, injure each other and teachers, and they see that none of the adults around them will take them to task. I feel very sorry for everyone involved in this ridiculous and dangerous government-sponsored circus, not the least the misbehaving kids who get no help to control their behavior and will have a rude awakening when they turn 18 and are no longer in school.

Think about this: if the Parkland shooter had been charged as a juvenile as he should have been by law enforcement, he would not have been able to buy the legal gun he used to commit murder that day after he turned 18. Instead, misguided school district policies kept him safe from prosecution. Who kept his classmates safe?

If you have had doubts about whether Winona schools have a problem with egregious misbehavior, ask a teacher. Or, ask someone to show you the video of the recent vicious fight at WSHS that precipitated a lock-down of the school. (According to rumor, the fight was over an un-paid bill for illegal drugs. Is this true?)

It would be doing everyone a great service if the school district and police chose absolute transparency in telling the public about that recent incident, especially revealing what punishment the students received, if any.