There is a particular institution we all pay for and, in theory, we all use. There is a particular institution we all feel is important and, in theory, we praise it. There is a particular institution we all deem to be at the cornerstone of a healthy and vibrant society, but in practice we don’t do much to support it. I’m talking, of course, about our public school system. Every day parents send their children to public classrooms where they are taught by strangers who are hired by administrators, budgeted by bureaucrats, and paid for by the taxpayer. Yet it appears that we as citizens have very little say in how the system works. Then when we look at the results, we have to ask ourselves, is it time we made a change?

In the news of the past few months there have been some very scary stories about teachers, schools, and the students populating them. As I write, a Virginia-based school board is dealing with the issue of cross-dressing in its schools. Apparently, male students are wearing dresses and wigs. The schools haven’t figured out if this is due to some form of sexual identification issue or if this is just silly teenagers having some fun. But the board has decided that this is an issue worth investigating and, as of today, it plans to vote on banning any type of cross-dressing on school premises. Obviously, the issue of appropriate attire is important, but why must a school deal with these issues while test scores are low and teachers are losing jobs?

Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, school prayer is being debated again. In one high school, there hangs a banner with a prayer on it, and the local courts decided it was unconstitutional. When school officials told the community that the prayer banner had to be taken down, the community reacted, and now a public hearing is scheduled to decide if the town wants to fight against the ACLU. The meeting is expected to be rather rowdy, and police officers are being planted near the meeting. “We’re expecting a lot of people to be there,” Carlos Lopez, a spokesman for Mayor Allen Fung, told “It’s going to be a circus, so bring your popcorn.” How nice that the local officials are already ready for disaster.

Keep in mind that this was all started by a local student named Jessica Ahlquist, who, as an atheist, was offended by the banner. Because one is “offended,” all must suffer.

In Canada, an elementary school teacher told a student that he smelled like fish and sprayed him with Febreze. You can’t make these things up.

Sadly, our own backyard is dealing with school craziness as well. Simi Valley High School found out last fall that one of its science teachers, David Considine, robbed a 7-11 at knifepoint. After some research, one local paper found out from a former student of his the following information: “He always used to talk in class just about — it wasn’t always relevant to chemistry — like life experiences he’d been through involving drugs he used to do in his college days,” said a 2008 Simi Valley High graduate. “Acid trips. No joke. He kind of gave the impression that he was like a crazy guy.” Good to see the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson alive and well in our public schools.

Is it just me, or do you feel like the craziness started after Columbine? Like we all went a little mad after those boys did so much evil? We must take back our schools from crazy teachers, pouty students and disruptive teenagers. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next semester. Now. Because our communities deserve better.

Teachers have hard jobs, students have a lot of pressure, and school boards deal with a lot of red tape, but we need to get back to basics. The job of the school is to educate. It isn’t to have religious battles or discussions on cross-dressing or to be a place to discuss drug usage in college. But these things happen when people lose focus.

Let’s get back on track. It’s only our future at stake.

Editor’s note: The scandals at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles came to light after this article was written and the accusations are so egregious, it doesn’t fit into the context of the issues discussed in this article.