Pleasant is probably the last word anyone reading Wednesday’s Gazette story about problems at Schenectady’s Mont Pleasant Middle School would use to describe the place. For the seemingly decent kids who go there, it sounds more like an out-of-control prison camp, where the inmates run the show. Of course that’s not exactly a surprise given the revolving door in the principal’s office over the past year. But there was a bit of positive news in Wednesday’s story that might yet get Mont Pleasant turned around before it becomes a lost cause.
It’s that the police department, which has been getting calls to the neighborhood surrounding the school almost daily since the beginning of September, has decided to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward legal infractions of any kind committed by kids on their way home: They (or their parents) act up, they get arrested.
This is going to be a pain for awhile, as it’s going to take a lot of time and effort — in identifying the infractions, apprehending the kids and following up with them in Family Court — for what, in many cases, will seem like fairly minor stuff.
But the city has seen where leniency got the police and school district — an utter lack of respect for authority by kids as young as 12 years old and loss of control — and while such harsh measures may not be an ideal long-term solution, they will have to suffice for now. As Wednesday’s story made clear — with reports of kids so afraid, they no longer want to go to school or even live in this country — the situation is intolerable. And it’s only going to grow worse if it isn’t reversed by the time the bad kids reach adulthood.
We hope the police commitment, spelled out by Chief Brian Kilcullen, is sincere; but more importantly, that the patrol officers forced to uphold it are on board. Because if they’re not, the kids will figure it out pretty quickly and the problems will continue, both in and out of school.
School officials are pretty much in the same boat: They have to stiffen, and prevail upon their staffs, even though it will itself be disruptive, to blow the whistle for all incidents of insubordination. It’s clear they’ve lost the upper hand with some of these kids, and that’s the only way they’re going to regain it. They’re going to need outside help, at least from within the district if not elsewhere, and it’s going to cost. But with so much at stake — the viability of the school, the school district and the city’s future — there doesn’t seem to be much choice.