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

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

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 seven students and two teachers 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 seventh child took her own life.  Seven 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.  Seven 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.

ADDENDUM:  In September 2013, yet another student from this infamous High School committed suicide.  A few weeks thereafter, some people who claim to be, and might actually be, students from this school, angrily wrote me.  How could I write such an article, they wanted to know.  How could I blame the school?  Didn’t I realize how much pain the community is in?  Well, frankly, of course I understand their pain.  That’s WHY the article was written.  I intend to protect children who cannot defend themselves from places like this school.

It is not normal for a school to generate this high number of staff and student suicides, and is indicative of a deep, systemic problem.  Those who wrote explained angrily that they’d received lots of help brought in from outside, “professional” help.  Well, as the suicides continue, I don’t see where the help has aided the kids at this school.  And I wonder that they think it’s okay they NEEDED THIS HELP SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY WENT TO A PUBLIC SCHOOL.  Because the frequency of these suicides is unique to this particular public school.

Folks, CHILDREN ARE DYING.  Get that?  WHY are they dying?  Inordinate amounts of bullying, perhaps?  Lousy teachers placing ludicrous expectations on the kids?  Destructive national educational standards that have nothing to do with the kids, and that teachers say they hate…yet continue to collect their paychecks and use?  A sense that, given what they were “learning”, their futures were limited at best?  Some other reason?  All of the above?  Until someone really knows, the place is dangerous and needs to shut down.  But teachers continue to collect paychecks, as do administrators, and outside “helpers” like psychiatrists.  Does the school get shut down until they can figure out what is going on, in order to protect young human lives?  No…those checks have to keep rolling.  And for those of you who think it can get better if we just throw more money at this school, more time, more students…Definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over, expecting new or different results.

Kaukauna DOES NOT WORK.  It’s a dangerous place, a deadly place for kids and faculty alike, obviously.  But because teachers jobs are “sacred” and defended mightily and with great resources by teacher unions, the doors stay open.

So before you write (and I will NOT publish angry letters accusing me of lack of feeling, etc) remember that I authored this article to stop kids from dying.  Do you really feel justified in complaining about that?  If so, well…shame on you.
I am a proponent of homeschooling.  (You have probably figured that out.)  I’ve authored two books about education which help make very clear the strengths of homeschooling when compared to schooling in other forms.  That is particularly true of my book, Poor Cheated Little Johnny.  My second book, Universal Private Education, lays out defined methods that one can use to successfully homeschool. I have also created a series of ten courses to be done at home by parents who wish to homeschool.  These courses each highlight an aspect of homeschooling and help the parent master skills and ideas they can use to truly triumph in teaching their children.   I hope that some of these resources might be of value to you.

Finally, I provide a second blog that talks purely about how to homeschool, Homeschool Hows & Whys.  Take a look, it’s free!

14 comments on “Lies About Public Education (Part Two) – We’ll Keep Your Kid Safe”

  1. Interesting write up. I homeschool my kids and I don’t like the public school. I’ve also had a brother who committed suicide. And I live in MN, not far from the Wisconsin border. I wonder, and this is just me thinking to myself, if perhaps others in this area were depressed? I am not just talking about the school, but in the area too — in the city itself? Do you know? Here is my thought — I live in Minnesota and the lack of sun is a definite stressor for us in this region. I have had to combat seasonal depression as well as Vitamin D deficiencies. If you look to our northern neighbor in Canada, they commit suicides left and right there because there is nothing to do but stare at snow. If you don’t live here, you wouldn’t get it. It’s sometimes pretty brutal. Sure there are the types that love this kind of thing, but then there are people like me. I hate the snow. But I’m not in a position to move to another state either. But the older I get, the worse my health becomes and the worse my mental state is. So maybe, just maybe these people were struggling with that. I get that the school should be held somewhat accountable. It’s very sad this happened. But unless you take a look at each person individually and see what was going on in their lives (previous issues, mental issues, health, family life), its hard to just blame the school.

  2. I just read several comments from some students who go to this school. I’ve changed my mind. In this situation, I’m thinking it is the schools fault. I wasn’t as informed about–but now this makes more sense. Wow, that is just sad!

  3. Hi Michelle,

    You know, I also had similar thoughts to your first post! I also had concerns about a lack of sun, etc. Funny you brought that up because, really, I considered it. But as you mentioned in your second post, no, it has something to do with the school. It’s just too clear. I commend the fact that you did your own research. Thanks for writing!

  4. Interesting to read your thoughts as I have not heard of this before. Definitely important to look at the why, although it may never be truly known. Yes, I am a homeschooling mom who has no worries about socializing my kids.

  5. As a college instructor, I have found my home-school graduates to be among the top professionally behaved students in the classroom. My oldest son, who was homeschooled for 3 years, married a sweet, smart girl who was homeschooled k-12 – and she did great in college. I found that when we homeschooled, our sons had a better social schedule than when we didn’t. However, it is so much easier when you have a homeschool arts program, homeschool ballet programs and so many other opportunities available. Mothers/Parents need to become socialization planners! If people look really closely into public schools, I think they would find many students have no social life when they go home – at least no parental-supervised social life. Sometimes it sounds like the pot calling the kettle black! Wonderful post!

  6. Hi Biancamae,

    That’s a very good point you make about the “social life” of public schoolers. (Private school children too, very often, by the way.) I don’t believe in “socialization” at all, but I do agree with you that the parents need to have a hand in making sure a child has social experience with others. I certainly did that, both while my two children were in (private) schools, and while they homeschooled.

    I’ve heard from others that homeschoolers perform very well at the college level. I interviewed a good friend, now sadly passed away, who was a Dean at a college, and he discussed this very thing. You can hear the podcast (free) at
    Listen to “How To Send Your Homeschool Student To College”. (There are several free webinars on that page.) I think you’ll be interested!

  7. Tracy Kavanaugh-Moes says:

    Please come find me on (FB) “Stop Harassment and Bullying By the Kaukauna School District……

    My son was and is currently being bullied by teachers in the system. Teachers that have gotten in his face telling him “YOU WILL AMOUNT TO BE NOTHING” i went through the ranks… Principal (who told me he has no one in the school who would do such a thing) The Super Mark D who told me he would look into it and thats exactly what he did and i talked to the president of the school board who told me to talk to the super and it’s just a circle of NOTHING!!!! and Children DAILY even the handicapped being abused in all forms of abuse … HELP!!!!!

  8. Hi, Tracy,

    Kaukauna administrators, given the district’s track record, will never admit to such problems. They’ve had a rash of suicides in that district, both students and teachers, as you doubtless know – so they’re going to admit to nothing for fear (and rightly so) of being held culpable. My best advice – the help you’re looking for – is that you need to pull your son out of there. There is clearly something uniquely wrong and dangerous with that district! You need to move your son to another district at the very least. But a much better solution exists. Homeschool. I think that you need to be the help you’re calling for. Perhaps you could find another family or two in the area who are sick of what’s happening there. (That should not be hard.) Form a homeschool group and in that way solve both the “socialization” issue (phony, anyway), and spread out the “teaching” among several parents, thus making it easier to continue your own life and work, while contributing, say twice a week, to your “home school.” I hope you will consider this. Sounds like you really need to.

  9. Vicki Kroiss says:

    On the handicap being bullied-our three daughters all graduated from KHS. They all are considered disabled by medical doctors and have always had a disabled license plate. They always parked in the handicap spot at the HS until the library paraprofessional told them the ups man could not deliver because they were parked in the way. They said they had the license and had no other place to park. She insisted they move so she could get her delivery. When I called directly to this woman she told me my daughters didn’t look disabled so they should walk just like everyone else. Wow, and to think my husband and I took these girls to Children’s Hospital and to Mayo when their medical diagnoses were right here in Kaukauna!

  10. Hi Vicki,

    WOW! Another “expert” heard from. Well, what do the doctors at Mayo and Children’s hospital know, compared to the…um…school librarian. The arrogance of this is astounding. But I’ve come to expect this sort of arrogance from people involved in public education. Well done getting your kids through!

  11. These are societal problems we are facing vis-a-vis social media and all the other social problems we have in our society. Neither schools nor teachers nor administrators are responsible for these things — home schooling will not solve these societal problems.

  12. Well, Brent, homeschooling DOES solve those very problems and many more – ONE CHILD AT A TIME, which is what we have to do now since clearly, schools can’t. And schools and administrators ARE very largely responsible for all our social ills. After all, our people and what they do is a response to their government-enforced education. So you want to know how well public ed has worked after many decades and trillions of dollars we can never get back? Look around at crashing literacy rates, rampant unemployment, all the social ills we suffer from…look around, and then thank your teachers and administrators, the “public guardians” of all that we learn and use, for that thing we laughingly call “education.”

  13. Nancy Moder says:

    September 10th, 2013
    Another student suicide in KAUKAUNA last night…when will it end?

  14. Hi Nancy,

    Apparently a 9th grader did commit suicide there yesterday. I don’t think much needs to be said. It’s a tragedy, and another unfortunate reason this school and the district should be shut down.

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