LATEST BULLYING AND SCHOOL VIOLENCE SURVEY SHOWS HAWAII STUDENTS NEED CHILD SAFETY ACCOUNTS
Program Would Be Open To All Hawaii Children Facing A Safety Issue At School
by Tim Benson, Heartland Foundation, September 30, 2020
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released the 2019 results of their biennial Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), and the responses show public schools in the Aloha State are having a tough time keeping children safe.
The latest data from YRBSS shows 17 percent of Hawaii high school students were bullied on school property in 2019, while another 13.1 percent reported being cyberbullied.
Disturbingly, one in six Hawaii high schoolers, 12.4 percent, reported skipping school at least once in the last 30 days due to concerns for their safety. Even more disturbingly, 16.7 percent, said they had seriously considered attempting suicide, while 10.5 percent actually attempted it.
The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) permits students to transfer to another public school under ESSA’s Unsafe School Choice Option provision, but only if their current public school meets the state definition of a “persistently dangerous” school. Because states define unsafe schools so narrowly, fewer than 50 American public schools out of nearly 100,000 are labeled “persistently dangerous” each year.
Students should not have to wait years at a time or become victims of violent crime before their parents are allowed to transfer them to safer schools, which is current policy. That is why The Heartland Institute is proposing for states to create a Child Safety Account (CSA) program. CSAs are a type of education savings account (ESA) program for parents who feel, for whatever reason, their child’s school is unsafe. A CSA would empower parents to transfer their children immediately to the safe schools of their choice within or beyond their designated public school districts—including public district, charter, and virtual schools—as well as private and parochial schools. CSA funds could also be used to pay for homeschooling expenses.
(The full brief on Child Safety Accounts is available here.)
Under Heartland’s CSA program, students would be eligible for a CSA account if their parents had a “reasonable apprehension” for their children’s physical or emotional safety, including bullying, hazing, or harassment. Parents could also determine their child’s school isn’t safe after reviewing the incidents-based statistics schools would be required to report.
Research shows students at private schools are less likely than their public school peers to experience problems such as alcohol abuse, bullying, drug use, fighting, gang activity, racial tension, theft, vandalism, and weapon-based threats. There is also a strong causal link suggesting private school choice programs, such as CSAs, improve the mental health of participating students.
Copious other empirical research on school choice programs finds they offer families improved access to high-quality schools that meet their children’s unique needs and circumstances. Moreover, these programs improve access to schools that deliver quality education inexpensively. Additionally, these programs benefit public school students and taxpayers by increasing competition, decreasing segregation, and improving civic values and practices.
An annual survey by Phi Delta Kappa reveals more than one-third of American parents fear for their child’s safety at school. This number rises to 48 percent for parents earning less than $50,000 per year. This represents a large jump from 2013, when only 12 percent of respondents answered they feared for their child’s safety.
The Hawaii public education system’s failure to protect children and provide parents with reasonable alternatives is precisely why this CSA program is so desperately needed. Every Hawaii family should have the opportunity to remove their child from an unsafe school environment. With Child Safety Accounts, this would become reality.
LINK >>> More information about Child Safety Accounts and education choice.