[from April 2000 issue]


We have recently begun to believe that truly evil people are running our public schools here in DC. How else can we explain the depths to which they allow our school children to fall--seemingly into myriad pits of mental and physical degradation.

If anyone reading this thinks we've carried wild hyperbole over the top, then that person hasn't been following the latest school management scandals, especially the most recent featuring a dead body near the Shaw Junior High entrance and the continued abuse of special needs children.

Let's discuss the corpse and the school kids first.

Shaw Junior high sits on a large property entered from Rhode Island Avenue and 7th Street. In front of the school building and to one side of the main entrance there is a sort of sunken plaza that at one time must have been intended for some laudable purpose, but in recent time has been abandoned and enclosed by a not very effective fence--homeless people and others are not deterred. Certainly not deterred was the lady who turned into a corpse and lay there, undetected by school personnel, for nearly two weeks as students and teachers passed by the outside stairway where here body was decomposing.

How is it possible that an area as open and accessible (though supposedly not so, but everyone knows otherwise) was simply off-limits for maintenance workers. The board of education people in charge of things like this say there's not adequate staff, etc. But one has to wonder how filthy and, actually, dangerous conditions in full view and easy accessibility of the students can be tolerated.

Every day, persons going in and out of that school were exposed to a view of trash and filth accumulating in that barren, sunken concrete area. Was nobody aware of obvious health dangers, such as it being a breeding ground for disease in such close proximity to children, not to even belabor the point about rats that get attracted to places like that? Why will nobody in the school system take responsibility and admit that they made a terrible mistake to ignore that spot--and, we'll wager our Lottery winnings, there are many more areas like that throughout the properties "maintained" by the school system.

Until there is accountability and real punishment for this kind of malfeasance there will be no improvements. Who makes these ill-considered management decisions that lead to these kinds of horrible results? We say, get rid of those people now! No severance pay, no excuses--just fire 'em and send 'em packing out the door tomorrow!

But as dreadful as dead bodies, rats and trash on school grounds may be, we think the way the school system continues to treat the special needs children who depend on bus service provided by the schools, despite court orders to the contrary, is so beyond the pale that anything less than jail time would be too soft a response.

What continues to go unpunished is a virtually cavalier attitude toward these children and their families. Recent press reports have detailed what is happening to a sickening degree. It is pathetic and unconscionable what traumas are being foisted on the defenseless youngsters and their frazzled parents. We are sure that the treatment accorded these kids will leave them with emotional scars for their entire lives. How would you feel if you were regularly dropped off at school hours late or not even picked up in the morning and left festering on the sidewalk or driven around for hours after school and deposited at home long after supper? That sort of thing is, apparently, a regular occurrence.

What we see in all this is an incipient criminality on the part of the adult authorities. They should go to jail. They won't because the city council won't make their malfeasance a crime. When will the "powers that be" (who or whatever they are) wake up and force the taxpayer-financed bureaucracy to treat our city's children in a humane manner? We don't have any good answers, but we do note that in only seven months we will have an opportunity to make our voices heard in the voting booths. Let's make good use of that opportunity.