Media Covers Innocuous Education Stories, Skips Incendiary Stories

In the past couple of days there have been some interesting school stories in the news – and some other provocative stories not covered widely by the mainstream media.

What's been covered?  Handwringing over the federal No Child Left Behind law, a celebrity-funded program that gives poor kids food over the weekend, and a charter school program producing an 80 percent college attendance rate.

What hasn't been covered?  California's newly signed laws that effectively turn public schools into homosexual indoctrination centers, and may even allow boys and girls who “identify” as the other sex to use each other's bathrooms and locker rooms.  And a Portland, Maine school is deciding whether to provide birth control pills to middle schoolers.

The safe, innocuous stories got national play.

    In the October 16 New York Times there's the standard write up on how hard it is for schools to meet the federal No Child Left Behind requirements for accountability and student performance. The article laments the struggles of extremely large school districts, like that of Los Angeles, where hundreds of schools are failing to meet standards and the administration seems unable to find solutions for the problems.

The article, if it were on video, would have all the quoted speakers pointing their fingers at each other, parents blaming the system, superintendents blaming the community, teacher unions throwing up roadblocks and everyone lamenting the very idea of accountability.  In the middle are the children.  

The Times article reads like most stories on No Child Left Behind, pointing out that the law is up for renewal and trotting out stories about lack of funding, unrealistic expectations and failures to comply.

On October 15, both CBS and ABC took a different approach in reporting on schools, by focusing on programs that are producing positive results. 

    CBS Evening News reported on a program being offered at Normandy Elementary in south Los Angeles.  At this school every child qualifies for free lunch and breakfast. Reporter Sandra Hughes informed viewers that the meals the children eat at school are often the only ones they eat.   

The story was about an innovative program called Blessings in a Backpack. Every Friday each student at the school receives food to take home to eat for the weekend.  Backpacks include a menu and store coupons as well.  The bill for the program is paid by former Disney star Hillary Duff.  Her generosity is making a real difference in the lives of those students.

Since the program was implemented, attendance has improved and test scores are up 33 percent.  The program is scheduled to be rolled out to more schools nationwide in the near future.

    ABC World News with Charles Gibson reported on another innovative program called K.I.P.P., or the Knowledge is Power Program.  This charter school initiative was started by two Houston teachers who were frustrated by the traditional school system failing their students.  The K.I.P.P. schools are rigorous; children attend class until 5:00 p.m. and other Saturday.  Parents must be involved in the education process.  The programs receive less public money and are therefore free to be more innovative.  80 percent of students attending K.I.P.P. schools go to college.

These stories are important because they provide information that can help parents effect changes in their own school systems.  But other stories that parents would find important too – alarmingly so -- were missing from the national news scene.  Both deal with sexual indoctrination.

As reported by WorldNetDaily, but not the liberal media, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed a bill that “effectively” bans the words “mom and dad” and “husband and wife” from schools, because they might be offensive to gays.  Likewise the bill “orders public schools to allow boys to use girls' restrooms and locker rooms, and vice versa, if they choose.”

WND reports, “The bills signed by Schwarzenegger include SB777, which bans anything in public schools that could be interpreted as negative toward homosexuality, bisexuality and other alternative lifestyle choices.”

The decision by California could have national repercussions because textbook publishers cater to their largest customer, which is often California.

On the other coast, in Maine, there are more shenanigans unreported by the national media.  This one involves kids and sex, usually a recipe that draws media attention like flies to honey.

The Portland Press Herald reported on a middle school that is considering whether to provide birth control pills to students who ask for it.

Yes, a public school is considering giving birth control pills to 11- to 13-year-old girls.  Under Maine law parents must approve their children using the public health center at the school, but they don't necessarily know whether confidential services are being provided to their children.  In practice, middle school girls could obtain the pill without parents being informed.  Red flags should be going up in newsrooms around the country on this one, but so far, nothing.

In fact, the local Associated Press article misrepresented the parental approval aspect of the proposal: “The student health center at King Middle School already provides condoms. Wednesday, the Portland School Committee will consider a proposal to expand the program by allowing students, who have parental permission, to obtain prescriptions for birth control pills.” 

While this is a local story, it also has national implications.  There are currently 1,700 school-connected health centers in the United States.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.