In Hindsight

Back to School

This September students headed back to class to absorb knowledge and life skills. Some even found time to work STDs and partners-in-crime into their curricula.

This September, millions of students headed back into the classroom and begat an onslaught of back-to-school news items—and not just the now-ubiquitous student-teacher sex escapades and debates over cell phone bans. These days kids learn about sex, violence, and objectionable fashion at school, and at school they’re punished for sex, violence, and objectionable fashion.

Elite American universities were in the hot seat this month because their students barely managed a D-plus on tests of basic knowledge of civics and American history. But that doesn’t mean schools aren’t looking out for the best interests of their undergraduates. For example, this month we also found out that American University students can have full-size beds in their dorm rooms. For roomier studying with their—ahem—lab partners.

Some students, however, would rather travel abroad to learn about sex. This month we learned that a University of Nebraska sociology professor chaperoned a group of students to Thailand’s red-light district last May to study “women’s issues including prostitution, family planning, and sex trafficking.”

With all this young love and romance in the air, it’s important to make sure students don’t take things too far. For example, the six-year-old who started his own first-grade “sex club” has probably taken things too far.

Fortunately, not all students are so eager to ace sex education and family planning. One Alabama teen made news this September for refusing to return Sandpiper, a book about a teenage girl on a “sexual power trip,” to her school library. She’s not holding tight to it for the reasons many of us would—reading under the covers with the flashlight on, etc.—but because she finds the novel’s sexual content inappropriate for other teens. You better believe there are some serious fines waiting for her if she ever tries to protect her classmates from The Whole Lesbian Sex Book.

I wonder if this considerate young lady is a grateful recipient of Alabama’s abstinence-only education program? This month a report showed Alabamans in Mobile County are three times more likely to catch gonorrhea, Chlamydia, or syphilis than New York City residents. But at least they’re getting a moral education.

Though high school students in New York City might not contract an STD as readily as those in Mobile County, this month it was announced they would be able to study Arabic at a dual-language public high school. Always deeply invested in the public education system, New Yorkers turned out to protest the school, fearing it will “become a hotbed of radical Islam.”

Another New York school that opened its doors to slightly less controversy this September: the New York City Stunt school. I think they should give honorary diplomas to the Chinese four- and five-year-olds who fasten themselves to a 200-meter cable and cross the most dangerous section of the Nujiang River each day in order to get to class.

Other schools in the Chicago suburbs are equally spooked over freaky dancing. Oak Park-River Forest High school “positions staff on three risers against the dance hall wall so they can look down into the crowd.” Elementary schools in Brevard County, Fla., have eliminated recess for the 2007-2008 school year in order to meet a state law that mandates 150 minutes of physical education every week. Why get rid of recess? Because they need to “stretch at their desk, walk laps after lunch, and watch videos on healthy eating habits” instead.

While recommended for health and fitness, rigorous physical activity in schools didn’t always bring out the best in students in September. Members of a Boston girl’s high school soccer team were caught with their pants around their ankles when they posted a video of themselves urinating on a rival team’s artificial soccer field to YouTube. The field had to be disinfected as a precaution, but play will resume as scheduled.

This fall, many students will be looking forward to homecoming dances. But they can forget about sexually explicit dancing, or “juking” at Evanston Township High in the Chicago suburbs. Other schools in the Chicago suburbs are equally spooked over freaky dancing. Oak Park-River Forest High school “positions staff on three risers against the dance hall wall so they can look down into the crowd.” Said Cindy Milojevic, OPRF assistant principal for student activities, “it allows our security to see what’s going on a bit more clearly.”

Considering all the trouble juking causes, maybe it’s a good time to brush up on some other basic school rules. Polk County, Fla., students should be widely discouraged from sending threatening emails to teachers. Two students were arrested this month for sending bomb threats to four of their teachers, as well as threatening gun violence—because they wanted to get a day off of school. They may find jail time more unpleasant than biology.

If emailing bomb threats is against school rules, it’s safe to assume the nine-year-old girl who brought a grenade in for show-and-tell found herself in disciplinary difficulty. Ditto for the 10-year-old Michigan boy who carried a semi-automatic weapon in his backpack.

But it’s not just guns and hand grenades that have been banned in schools. One Florida school has banned goth clothing and a Florida high school senior was told her green hair violated the school’s dress code. Apparently Florida high schools are coming out aggressively against ‘90s fashion. Having gone to high school in the ‘90s, I believe students will later realize these wardrobe bans are for their own good.

I’d much rather students follow the example of the Nova Scotia high-schoolers who defended a classmate that was bullied because he wore a pink shirt on the first day of class. The boys dressed 75 of their fellow students in pink tank-tops. How lovely! Not only is pink such a cheery color, but according to the boys: “The bullies got angry… One guy was throwing chairs.”

This September we went back to school and learned that for some, it can be a great place to kill time while you get ready for bigger, better state-supported institutions—ones with cells, and correctional officers.


TMN Editor Nicole Pasulka believes she could beat a lie detector. When she sits in a chair she almost never puts her feet on the floor. Even though she likes the internet a lot, she is convinced that people will always read magazines and she is secretly building one in her basement. More by Nicole Pasulka