Lies About Public Education (Part Two) – We’ll Keep Your Kid Safe

Written by Steven David Horwich on Thursday, 18 October 2012. Posted in Opinion, Steven David Horwich

An average midwest school, situated in the heart of a community that looks very much like the Norman Rockwell version of an ideal hometown has suffered a rash of student and teacher suicides over a three-year period. Why?

Lies About Public Education (Part Two) – We’ll Keep Your Kid Safe

There is another High School, named Kaukauna. It’s found in Wisconsin, you know, part of the Great Lakes region. Low minimum wage in Wisconsin. Around 7.5 unemployment rate, lower than the national average, but a lot of people not making a lot of money – that low minimum wage I mentioned? Cold, snowy winters, great for winter sports. Can drop to 40 below in the winter! You know Wisconsin, the “cheese head state”?

So this school, Kaukauna High. Currently “serves” about 1,100 students, per their website. First bell is at 7:45 A.M., rise and shine! Sometimes, college reps come to Kaukauna and scout, and students can go to the office to get a pass to attend meetings with those reps. They’ve got a basketball team, and a picture of the team near the team bus on their site. Kaukauna had their picture retake day October fifth.

A typical American High School.

And five students and two teachers have committed suicide at Kaukauna since 2009.

Yup. Small population for a high school, Kaukauna. Me, I went to Chatsworth High in Los Angeles, and we had a graduating class as large as Kaukauna’s whole student population. I graduated in ’74 from Chatsworth. Don’t recall there being a lot of suicides. Not like at that modern educational institution, that bastion of socialization, that safety zone for young people, Kaukauna.

It started in Kaukauna in May, 2009. I’m going to skip the use of names. I think a student who has taken his or her life requires anonymity for the sake of their family and their memory. These were real children with real families and lives and, one would have thought, real dreams and futures.

The first child took his life in May of 2009. Weather in Wisconsin should have been warming up in May. Should have been some pretty days that time of year. Guess not pretty enough. By end of October, when I’ll give you that the weather was probably turning grey, four children at the school had killed themselves. In January, 2011, the fifth child took her own life. Five student suicides in two years.

And whatever the hell was going on at Kaukauna, some of the teachers were not immune. Two of them took their own lives, as well.

What did the school and the district do about this disaster? Well, they had some meetings to discuss it all. They discussed “warning signs”, the things a person contemplating suicide might say or do before taking their own life. As if each suicidal child is identical and behaves identically to every other suicidal child. They eventually brought in “experts”, you know, psychologists and their buddies, to help control the situation, to explain it, to prevent its continuance. And the suicides continued.

What did these children, and indeed, the teachers who took their own lives, have in common. Well, they seem to have shared the “blessing” that is Kaukauna High School. They were all, teachers and students alike, results of their educational experience.

There’s something wrong with a school, or any institution that acts as a focal point for a rash of suicides. Even the well-socialized students at Kaukauna sense that there may be a problem. As one said, “I got the news and I felt a little sad myself. It’s not good stuff.”

That was one young man’s reaction to his friends killing themselves. Doesn’t sound like much of a reaction, does it? “It’s not good stuff.” Nope, it’s very much not. But here we have the response of a well-raised young man to the suicides of his classmates. Seems a bit out of touch or unconcerned, though he may have expressed deep feeling as best he could. I suspect, however, having known hundreds of kids who have survived public schools to graduate with poor education and poorer prospects, that we are seeing here yet another of the fruits of “socialization”. That would be a lack of real concern for others, as the sort of social interaction public schools offer is often dangerous to kids and does not really encourage a concern for one’s fellow man.

The Principal (and still principal) of the school, Michael Werbowsky, said in 2009, “There are situations and scenarios that are happening that are not much different than ours and unfortunately at this point we have had a few of them in a row.”

Yup, they sure did. And they just kept happening over the next two years.

So why is the man who captained this clearly sinking ship still in charge? Was the man fired, along with most of his staff? Oh, come on! You know the teacher unions would never allow that!

Werbowsky and his staff are all fit and safely employed, thank you very much. Results don’t matter to teacher unions! They don’t really matter to teachers as a rule, so long as they get paid. And hey, we’re not talking about educational results, here, which are clearly, statistically execrable across the country throughout our public school systems. No, now we’re talking about life results. Or life and death results, unfortunately enough. Five student suicides, two teacher suicides, in three years? Those are pretty bad life results.

Were any investigations done into the practices and methods of a school that could produce such a horrific result amongst both students and teachers alike? Was the school closed, and perhaps nuked to make sure that whatever evil spirit in control of it never again reared its ugly head?

Nope, none of the above, or at least, nothing that produced any changes. They did have some “experts” talk to assemblies and families. You know, about the signs of impending suicide. Didn’t seem to stop what was happening.

But no one seems to have seriously looked into WHY. Why all the suicides, born out of an institution that prides itself in providing “socialization” to students? You know, socialization, the supposedly rare quality that public schools claim to specialize in? The ability to get along with others, to do well in life because one knows how to “fit in”?” Socialization, the big argument public schools make in favor of their continued, very expensive existence. Why, teachers and their friends claim, you have to immerse a child in life, in his fellow’s lives, to make the child strong and ready for a life in big business, or whatever. A child must learn how to deal with social pressures, peer pressure, bullying, bigotry, and the various insults and injuries young people heap upon each other when placed in a large, impersonal group. You know, like a public school.

Right. Well, look at the results of this approach, folks. Look hard, because people are dying. Young people are dying, children. Children took their lives who had expected to be loved and protected by the adult world that has power over them, that surrounds them. That is the first job of an adult – protect children. Well, Kaukauna High obviously failed at its first and most important job. There were young people willing to do ANYTHING to escape what life was giving them, that seems all too clear. And too many of them went to Kaukauna High School.

You can hear the argument right now, can’t you? Teachers getting all huffy about it wasn’t the school’s fault, it was the parent’s fault, the community, it was video games, violent movies, you name it – everything but their school!

But the two things that these kids all had in common – they went to Kaukauna High. And they are no longer with us.

Image Credit: American Daily Herald    

About the Author

Steven David Horwich

Steven David Horwich

Steven David Horwich has been both a professional writer and a professional educator his entire adult life. Simultaneously, he has had a long career in the performing arts, winning an Emmy Award at age 17 for My Littlest Revue, a musical theatre piece he authored, directed, and performed in. He has subsequently worked with some of Hollywood’s most well-known stars, including John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Jonathan Winters, and others. As an educator he has taught at USC in the Professional Writer’s Program and in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He currently runs the Website that provides a proven home school and classroom-use curricula for ages 5-adult.

Copyright © Steven David Horwich. Used with Permission.

Comments (3)

  • Letitia Talbot

    Letitia Talbot

    03 October 2013 at 16:37 |
    It saddens me greatly to see you push your advocacy of homeschooling as a suicide prevention solution. Your ignorance and insensitivity to our town and especially the students at KHS is shameful. You are twisting facts to sell a book. A book that establishes you as a supreme authority on the healing nature of homeschooling. As a parent, I have met with school board members, medical professionals, community religious leaders, educators, and the administration many times to address the need to reach out and establish a solid communitity support system for the students of Kaukauna. Do you know how much time I spend with teenagers in this community working to instill values and promote self esteem? Do you know how many good people are working beside me? Today's youth feels disconnnected and unrecognized. How many high school students beyond your own children can you greet by name, recognize their individual contributions to their family, school and community and validate their choices and opinions? In the past three months I have worked with 65 different teenagers in my parish. I have learned their names and hobbies, listened to stories of their concerns for themselves and their families and friends and repeatedly prayed with them and for them. I am not the only adult in Kaukauna doing this. It has nothing to do with our children being educated at home, in the religious school systems, or being part of public education. It is about offering positive role models, working together, and learning about the people in our community so they are not alone and hopeless when they face a crisis. It is about building a better, kinder, more caring community where people are aware that help is not only available, but it is safe for them to seek and trust that they will be respected and valued.This same community you label as damaged has students and parents volunteering hundreds of hours of service for a wide array of civic and religious organizations simply because their is such a strong belief that it is our duty and privilige to serve others. We have multiple established mission programs for adults and teenagers that are so popular that we are continually adding more places for people who want to join. The educators you disrespect work tirelessly to improve the quality of education in Kaukauna. What are you doing to help? If that answer is nothing except twisting facts to prove your argument, then perhaps you should tend to your own children and leave mine alone. There is something that is disgusting about the way you dismiss and denigrate people you have never met in order to profit financially. There is a special place in hell for hypocrites like you who spin tragedy to prove a point.
  • Mitchell Adams

    Mitchell Adams

    03 October 2013 at 16:12 |
    I was a student at Kaukauna High School. I Graduated in 2012. I was there for the first suicide, and my brother was there for the last. I personally knew several of the suicide victims, including one of the teachers. I saw first hand what the Kaukauna High School administration did in response to the suicides. That being said, this article is fairly confusing due to the lack of fact checking, the use of logical fallacies, and the gaping wholes in you argument.

    There have have 6 student suicides and 2 teacher suicides since 2009, not 7 and 2 respectively.

    Your use of quotation marks around the words "serves," "experts," and "warning signs," are misleading to readers, as if you believe the aforementioned words have some other meaning. While I went to Kaukauna HS, I was served by teachers that cared deeply for their students. I witnessed the administration bring in various experts that taught students and teachers alike what possible warning signs of suicide could be, being reminded throughout that they are different for different people, and some don't show any signs at all.

    Your statement, "But no one seems to have seriously looked into WHY. Why all the suicides, born out of an institution that prides itself in providing “socialization” to students?" is blatantly wrong. Grants have been specifically acquired and utilized to discover what might have caused each individual suicide, and what can be done to prevent future ones. You are also implying that the suicides were directly caused by the school district;. Such an implication is not being drawn from by any other fact except that these students all attended the same school.

    You also cry out for the termination of the school administration because of the lack of results in preventing suicides. This fails to mention the psychology of suicide clusters, a phenomenon we still don't have much knowledge about why it occurs, let alone sufficient knowledge about prevention.

    Please find a different way to promote your belief of the benefits of home schooling, instead of writing an inaccurate article about a subject you have little to no understanding of.
  • Nicole


    10 September 2013 at 11:26 |
    As of today, there have been 9 people from Kaukauna school that have committed suicide. At one point there was a speaker brought in that said these clusters of suicides happens, but places tend not to acknowledge them. I wonder how true that actually is and if there really is another school that has had 7 students & 2 teachers commit suicide in a 4 year period. It is just so hard to fathom.

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