It might not be a common occurrence but a recent incident at Champaign Centennial High School points out the kind of problems that school officials – and students – face in public schools.
Some of the problems are the result of stupid decisions not only by students but by adults.
Earlier this month a 16-year-old female student at Centennial set a small fire in a girls' locker room at the school. It caused thick black smoke to fill parts of the school and resulted in the evacuation of Centennial and the cancellation of classes.
It was a foolish decision by a student who later admitted that she just wanted to get out of school for the day.
Fortunately, no one was injured. But a fire in a school of 1,500 students and hundreds of faculty and staff, plus the need to call fire equipment and firefighters to the scene, is a mix that could have resulted in serious injury. This was not a harmless prank.
But the most eye-opening part is the story behind the story: the fact that the 16-year-old arsonist is living on her own, in an apartment, with her divorced parents several states away. This child – she's indisputably a child in the eye of the courts – has been on her own since at least January, prosecutors say.
For as long as there have been books on parenting, physicians and psychologists have urged parents to stay involved in the lives of their teenagers, to talk to them and keep track of their comings and goings. Some parents somehow manage to miss the message. And then the schools get blamed. And the rest of society pays the price.