A Woke Student is a Safe Student

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Joe Howard: “We can’t keep heaping society’s issues on schools. It can’t all be the school’s job….”

In November 2020 the Arizona Department of Education released its report School Safety Task Force Final Report. Shortly afterwards, Prescott’s The Daily Courier carried an editorial on the report’s release entitled Schools Were Never Meant to Raise Our Kids.


My interest piqued, I read the report.

It turns out the report is not some pragmatic, measurable, implementable School Safety Task Force report/plan. Instead, it is a “woke” suggestion to create a plan, a grab-bag of vague ideas for mental health and cultural indoctrination. It equates to a recommendation for social engineering within Arizona’s schools. In this plan safety is another word for “woke”. “A Woke Child is a Safe Child” could be the subtitle of the report.

The ultimate and UNSTATED vision of the document is a Social Justice utopia causing safe schools to blossom in Arizona. On its journey to this hidden vision, the report manages to miss all of its stated goals.


The missed goals include:
1. Identify a unifying, research-based approach to school safety.
2. Create a model school safety plan for use by schools and districts.
3. Develop a clearinghouse of resources.
4. Research the value and impact of a tip line and additional evidence-based, best practices for the state.
5. Create an outline of recommended legislative changes.

Following the logic of this “plan”, parent teacher conferences would center on the quality of muffins at breakfast, education would focus on how to put condoms on bananas at puberty, details of the abortion schedule in high school, how to dress for class with a fluid gender, and the best mental health counseling and drugs to facilitate “transition therapy”, all making Arizona schools safer. What about learning and test scores? Reading? Writing? Math? Critical Thinking? And what about boys and girls showering in their respective locker rooms – that’s all so capitalist, so cis-gendered, so racist!

A vague statement of the intent of the project is found in the second line of the Executive Summary: “This report, therefore, may be different from what many expect. It is less focused on threat assessment, physical safety and crisis intervention. It is more focused on school climate, prevention, mental health and relationship building”. In other words, our children will not be able to read or write or add 2 plus 2 to get the correct answer (is there a correct answer in this proposed culture?) but will have pleasant relationships with others, a nice, gender fluid wardrobe, tasty condoms and live comfortably in a world without consequences for their behavior or expectations for higher performances.


Want a clue to the report’s content? The report is written by a gaggle of social justice warriors, including Maya Zukerburg, the political director (read this again, the POLITICAL DIRECTOR) of “March for our Lives AZ”, which is closely aligned with the Puente Youth Movement, a “youth empowerment hub that centers the development of young people through culture, politics and leadership and community organizing development for the purpose of long-term political change”. Their activities focus on “Cops outta campus”, “History of our people’s resistance (the history not usually taught in school)” and “workshop activities around social justice issues”.

In the authors’ world view school safety is achieved when all our children spout woke platitudes, see mental health counselors rather than reading or math tutors, all school police are removed from all campuses and they have broken the ‘school to prison pipeline’.

In reality, this report is a derivative of the “Defund the Police” movement, which itself appears to have evolved from the Restorative Justice programs in schools over the past decade. This writer became aware of the Restorative Justice movement as a member of the NAACP several years ago when the movement began in California. Beginning in predominately black school districts such as Oakland, this orthodoxy spread across California like wildfire and saw the then Governor of California, Jerry Brown sign legislation banning “willful belligerence” as a reason to remove a student from a classroom or be suspended or expelled from school.

The result has been, not a rise in achievement or the closing of the “achievement gap” between students of color verses white and Asian students, but a decline in classroom behavior, a rise in school violence affecting all students and teachers and the acceleration of a teacher shortage throughout the California as teachers throw in the towel when they feel threatened and unable to teach.

The Arizona School Safety Task Force report is right about one thing: it is time to re-evaluate what our schools are responsible for achieving. Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Joe Howard is quoted in the Courier article, saying, “We can’t keep heaping society’s issues on schools. There is a lot of finger pointing about school responsibility. It can’t all be the school’s job. We could use some support…. We could use some resources”.

Let’s not turn Arizona schools from places of learning into the underperforming societal quagmires of California. The L.A. Unified School District, for example, is renowned, not for its educational prowess, but for being the largest food service operation in the state, if not the country, serving 688,000 meals PER DAY. The district also provides preschool, day care, and after school services and is busy upgrading school nurses into full scale health clinics with doctors, dentists, nurses, and mental health care. Meanwhile, it is in the bottom of academic performance in the country.

One last thought. My wife taught elementary school in a Northern California district where one elementary school, whose children tested at 9% proficient (at grade level), attempted to fix the low performance by hiring a yoga/meditation instructor so everyone, teachers and students, could relax and not worry about the results.

Not in Arizona.


As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.

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