Why I Quit...
I became increasingly concerned about the state of the public schools. I am documenting some of my experiences to highlight the current culture and environment of the public schools...
I worked as a school counselor in a small suburban school district from 2013 to 2020. I spent most of my time working with high school students in grades 9 – 12, but I also worked in the elementary and middle school levels. During my tenure with this district, I became increasingly concerned about the state of the public schools. I am documenting some of my experiences to highlight the current culture and environment of the public schools.
My first area of concern has been the sexualization in the schools. Frequently, I saw students kiss and caress one another intensely in the hallways—without any reservation. I had one student admit to me they had sex in the school building. The female student was under the age of consent and indicated the event was non-consensual. In other words, she had been raped in the school building by another student. Another time a concerned sibling shared that her middle school-aged brother was having sex in the bathroom in the school. The school cameras did indeed show the students were in the bathroom together, but the students said that the male was helping the female put on makeup, so there was no action taken.
Planned Parenthood representatives were regularly brought in as “experts” to provide presentations for students during class time regarding sexual health education and healthy sexual relationships. Planned Parenthood’s website claims they are the nation’s largest provider of sex education, so our school was not an exception in having them as regular guest speakers. In addition, the school has moved beyond a general acceptance or tolerance of the LGBTQ+ community, and is now actively promoting and encouraging exploration and questioning of the children’s sexual and gender identity. “Safe zone” LGBT stickers have been commonplace for more than a decade, but now there are posters explaining different terms, and after school clubs that take school-sponsored trips to pride parades. In addition, students are directly taught in the classrooms, starting in middle school, that gender is a spectrum and is not binary (i.e., there are not just males and females, but rather a range of genders from feminine to masculine).
There were numerous transgender students for such a small school. I had students as young as 14 injecting testosterone to change their body chemistry and gender. It was clear to them, to their teachers, and to me as their counselor, that their behavior and emotions were especially intense just after the time of their injections. They typically became depressed as the hormones were wearing off. Some students would discuss their transition openly, for example talking about the breast binders they were wearing to suppress their breast development or their struggle with the insurance companies to cover surgical procedures. Other students were not as open about it. For example, there was a 9th grade student who arrived to our school as a trans-male (female transitioned to male) and their school records all reflected their preferred gender rather than assigned sex, so most school staff and students were not aware. We had multiple students who would use the bathrooms of their preferred gender, rather than their biological sex.
Staff were required to use students’ preferred pronouns. This was even the case with a student who announced they were “gender fluid,” such that teachers needed to ask the student’s preferred gender for that day, and then employ the correct pronouns. Official school records were changed, via the student management system, based on each student’s preference, rather than any official documentation.
The culture surrounding gender and sexual identity was so pressing that many adolescents felt they needed to seek out unique words to describe their “identity.” For example, I had a student who came to my office crying because she was struggling to find the LGBTQ+ word that represented her identity. Her friend had recently come out as transgender, and she felt pressure to have an identity that would help her fit in. She indicated she had been up late googling the LGBTQ+ terms trying to find what best represented her. She explained she felt attracted to people who show interest in her, which concerned her. I expressed to her that it is totally “normal” for any human to experience this. She was clearly under pressure to somehow fit in to the LGBT+ agenda.
The second concern that I have had in terms of the public school culture was the general culture of disrespect. One way this was displayed was by skipping class. Some parents found out on report cards that their student had missed numerous classes. I was often asked why they didn’t know about this sooner or why this was allowed. Unfortunately, this was a widespread issue that wasn’t fully addressed. Sometimes students were caught, assigned a detention, or calls were made home, but most times the teachers, counselors, and administrators didn’t have time to address each issue of skipping class. There was not any good system to alert parents, so their child was often unaccounted for during periods of the school day. Many students had a disrespectful attitude toward staff and each other. Some students would use inappropriate language, “talk back” to the staff, and refuse to follow directions or listen to what they were asked to do. I had multiple teachers come to me in tears because they didn’t know how to handle students who would refuse to follow directions and distract their entire class. As a counselor, I had a student slam a door on my face, I was yelled at, and students often walked out on me numerous times. I was even cat-called in the hallway by a student. Though I was surprised by this general culture of accepted disrespect, I know not all schools are the same. For example, I learned that other schools were even worse. Several students that had transferred from a city school told me they were surprised by how peaceful and quiet it was in our school compared to their previous schools.
A third area of concern that I have had has been the prevalence of mental health issues in the public schools. There is an alarming epidemic of mental health issues among adolescents. This does not seem surprising, given the public school culture and social media influence. When a student or their peers are struggling with mental health, it can be impossible for them to focus on their learning. Also, when students are in a peer group that is wrought with mental health issues, it impacts their own mental health. Somewhere between one third and one half of adolescents engage in self-harm, which is known as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). Unfortunately, studies have indicated that peer influence can initiate or increase NSSI, as some kids are encouraged to try it by their peers. According to the most recently published results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2019), 18.8% of all students reported seriously considering suicide, and 8.9% of students reported having attempted suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among high school-aged youth. There has been a societal push to de-stigmatize mental illness. However, I have watched this move to the other end of the spectrum, where students then flaunt their mental illnesses as if their problem was a “cool” attribute. Having a label such as bipolar, depression, or anxiety, becomes something some students are proud of because they get attention from their peers and adults.
Other concerns I have had regarding public school culture include lying, bullying, cheating, use of schools for political indoctrination, and use of drugs in school, even during the middle of class without the teacher noticing. Students are desperate to fit in and be considered cool. Because they think truth is subjective, they are not well connected to reality, they are not disciplined, and they are not being prepared to think for themselves. During my seven years at this school, I have seen these problems continue to escalate. I hope my testimony might cause many parents to share my concerns and take positive actions.