The Predicament of Public Schools

There is never a quiet day in high school. Missoula’s high schools are no exception. Every school has its own issues, whether it is the students or something deeper within the system, there is no avoiding it. It’s no single person’s fault, nor directly the fault of the district for these problems; however, it is still important to address them while they are still fresh.

No one is perfect, especially when it comes to growing up from childhood into adulthood. Teenagers are full of hormones and are developing critical thinking skills, morals, and emotions for themselves and their peers. With the morals and behavior of teens still being developed, students are bound to make mistakes and act immaturely. Now, put all these kids into a system that is built off of competition for affine social success. You’re bound to have issues. Competition in school is an everlasting constant. Every kid faces their own issues, sometimes it’s the want to be the strongest in weight training or the prettiest girl in the room. Intentionally or not- school encourages this competitive behavior. 

Multiple students of Big Sky, Willard, and Sentinel expressed issues with the social environment their schools have. When asked what is the worst thing students have watched happen to other peers, one anonymous student answered in the context of the rape culture in school “these mature conversations are important to have, but they should not be debates in classrooms” and advised future students and current underclassmen “ Detach yourself from the school…go (to school) as a way to get educated, and not as a brand name (for the school)…” other students responded similarly to the question, advising current and future students to stay as far away as possible.

Every teacher should be able to run their classroom how they please. That is until they are restricting the health of their students and co-workers. Many schools have had issues with unfair, or inappropriate, rules in and out of the classroom. In early February, Sentinel High School’s female bathrooms were locked. One of our staff, Delaney Crum, wrote about this issue in an article of her own, The Closing of the Girls’ Bathrooms, which not only talks about why staff made this choice but also solutions that would help staff and students communicate without restricting their ability to use the restroom. Throughout the year’s many teachers have denied students to use the bathroom. In some cases restricting them to only one bathroom break a week, otherwise, they would begin to lose participation points or be outright denied. 

Bathrooms aren’t the only issue. Around April of 2022, a questionnaire was handed out in a freshman health class asking about the student’s sexual orientation, with targeted and aggressive questions, that implied being straight was wrong. “The majority of child molesters are heterosexuals. Do you consider it safe to expose children to heterosexual teachers, scout leaders, and coaches?…” The school district responded immediately upon discovery of the handout, removing it from the classroom and responded to NBCMontana with the following statement, “MCPS has a “challenged materials” procedure that anyone can access. Generally, the challenged materials procedure is used when there is a challenge with curriculum material used in our classrooms. However, the handout in this particular incident was not part of the curriculum and should not have been used, as it is not part of our approved instructional materials for this unit…”(McCauley). These loose classrooms and curriculums can be good, allowing teachers to help students learn in a safe and refreshing environment, as well as help keep education modern and fun. However, it should not be so open as to allow harm to their students.

Sometimes issues within the school system aren’t the students or staff’s fault at all. These last four years have been the roughest for the students in Missoula. 2018 to 2022 have been especially hard on MCPS and students. In 2020, students were put right into the COVID-19 pandemic, and spent half of the school year online and quarantined. Once students came back, the school was long and was forced into a ‘new normal. While schools did slowly adapt, students were still having a hard time.

Schools are full of problems, but it is not any one person’s fault. These situations haven’t been handled the best, or haven’t been taken care of as delicately as they should have. Despite this, the schools are trying to do their best after the disaster of these last few years. The schools are on an uphill climb to recovery. Hopefully, the underclassmen get a chance at a better high-school career than me and my fellow peers have.