WHAT MAKES SCHOOLS SAFE?

by David Sisler

A long time ago, when kids did not beat up other kids to steal brand named shirts (because the brands were basically all "Sears & Roebuck"), a teacher told me that our system of government was a representative democracy. Silly me. I thought that meant, if the majority of us favor a measure, our elected representatives will vote our wishes. Case in point: the Richmond County School Board sponsored survey which asked elementary and middle school parents to express their feelings about school uniforms.

"We want mandatory uniforms," the parents declared.

"No, you don't," the School Board said, "and we know best."

But for now, at least, Richmond County's policy is for all the children of all the people. It is only "for now" because School Board attorney, Pete Fletcher says the mandatory policy passed when six members courageously decided to reexamine the measure over the objections of four faint-hearted members must have an "opt out" clause.

"Students have a right to attend school without cost," Mr. Fletcher said. Well, unless current dress codes are drastically amended the kids aren't going to attend classes dressed in the altogether. Birthday suits are still not appropriate attire in the classroom. So parents will still shop for school wardrobes.

Uniforms are easily affordable. If you doubt that, try buying the "name brand" clothes that kids fight over these days. A simple skirt and blouse, or shirt and trousers cost far less than having your school-aged youngster wearing some designer's name stitched across his or her chest or derriere. Do like kids do who work in fast food restaurants buy two uniforms: wear one, wash one.

It has been reported elsewhere, but it bears repeating where mandatory uniform policies have been implemented, 90 percent of the children comply. Where mandatory uniform polices have been implemented school crime drops, assaults on school property drop, vandalism drops, and attendance levels reach all-time highs. Those figures, those results, do not happen when the uniform polices are voluntary.

People who make the studies say that uniforms help because they reduce material competition. Uniforms just make good sense if you are wearing a simple, pull-over shirt and I am wearing the same style shirt, why should I beat you up to steal your shirt? Maybe that just makes too much sense.

At the same time the School Board of Richmond County waffled, then unwaffled, the House of Representatives, "searching for a way to curb youth violence" approved legislation permitting the Ten Commandments to be posted in schools. The measure has as much chance of surviving challenges of unconstitutionality has a snow ball does in a hot oven.

Calls have also repeatedly been sent to Washington, to pass a measure which will allow for voluntary school prayer. I predict as much success for school prayer legislation as I do for the survival of the Ten Commandments legislation. In fact, I wish the issue would go home to my home, to your home, to the homes of every individual and every family in our country.

I very much fear the passage of a measure by the Federal government, or any level of government, for that matter, which says citizens may pray to the Lord God Almighty. Once we say, legislatively, and it becomes the law of the land that we may pray to Jehovah, it is only a short step to passing another law that says we must pray to Jehovah. Many may initially applaud that idea, but it then becomes another short step to a law which says we must pray to the god of XYZ Religion.

It won't happen, you say? Then you do not know history, especially the history of Bible times, when prayer was a required course. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego went from court favorites to potential furnace fuel when they failed to pray to the official god of Babylon. Daniel was offered as the main course for the lions' supper because he offered prayers to God and not to King Darius, as was prescribed by law. When faith becomes the tool of legislation, religion becomes the tool of the winners of the last election. There is always the possibility of a Pharaoh who does not know Joseph, but when faith is hidden in the human heart it is immune to legislative whim.

Ultimately, neither school uniforms, school-prayer amendments, nor the Ten Commandments hanging on the walls of schools, will insure the physical safety the students or their teachers. The only real safety is eternal safety, built securely on the foundation of personal faith in Jesus Christ. And that is not a task legislators can perform for us.

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Published in the Augusta Chronicle 6/26/99

Copyright 1999 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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