School Choice and Bullying
‘If I went here, I would have enjoyed learning,’ said a prospective parent at the New City School in the north Central West End.
The response isn’t unusual. New City is a beacon of creativity in education. The private school is known for its academic prowess and unconventional atmosphere, where students call teachers by first names and climb to the tops of tree-house-like structures to use classroom computers.
Of all the fascinating elements that make New City one of the top schools in Saint Louis, the most interesting feature is its students.
‘There’s no bullying here,’ said one of the sixth graders I interviewed. Several other students went on to explain that diversity education is taught early on—individuality isn’t just tolerated, it’s celebrated. In a time when bullying has progressed from the playground to the internet, the perspectives of New City School students are rare.
According to one study, bullying victims are two to nine times more likely to commit suicide, the third leading cause of death among young people.
Since bullying often occurs outside school property after hours, public school administrators can do little. Families who cannot afford to move or pay private school tuition are left without options. This is close to the situation Las Vegas mother Natika Bird found herself in before her daughter took her own life in early March.
“She had been getting bullied for a long time, to the point where the happy, bubbly girl that I knew changed,” she said. “They hacked into her email and they created a Facebook page and they massacred her.”
Bird said she had discussed the situation with Clark County School District police.
“The school police told me because it was not on school campus and after hours, I needed to call the regular police. The regular police told me, ‘You need to call the school police,’” Bird said.
Public schools have often addressed bullying through prevention campaigns and anti-bullying contracts, but sometimes, parents need other options. Bird’s daughter’s public school was not at fault for her death, but there should be a safety net for parents who have sought help and were told to look elsewhere.
School choice is that safety net. Though, New City School prides itself in attaining socioeconomic diversity by offering financial aid, choice is still limited for many children.
That all children should have the opportunity to enjoy learning without the fear of bullying is just another reason why Missouri should expand school choice.