MSD parents set bad example for their children by engaging in hostile debates with neighbors

Eagle Eye Editorial Board

With a true capacity of 3,077 students and an enrollment of 3,500 students, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is severely overcrowded. Over the past five years, a multitude of students and parents alike have voiced their complaints in regard to issues caused by the school’s capacity situation.

Due to the influx of students, many find themselves shoving through crowded hallways, only to be late to classes that are stuffed to the brim. Although the Class Size Amendment in 2007 prohibited having over 25 students in one core class, SB 2120, passed in 2011, changed the definition of “core class.” Because of this, advanced placement, and other higher-level classes, are not considered “core,” regardless of the subject, and may have upward of 40 students. It has also been more difficult for some to find room to eat at lunch, despite the split A and B lunch schedule.

As a result of these issues and many others, the community called upon the Broward County school district to alleviate the overcrowding problem, to which they responded by allowing Parkland and Coral Springs residents to submit community proposals for rezoning plans between Oct. 3-31, 2022. Meetings are being held at various points between November 2022 and April 2023 to discuss these proposals. The final decision will be made between March 2023 and April of 2023.

Each of the proposals are classified as “phase-in” proposals, meaning that students who currently attend MSD will not be impacted regardless of which plan the district chooses to adopt, if any. Only new students to MSD will need to comply with the hypothetical new zoning plan.

Despite the democratic approach to dealing with MSD’s capacity conflicts, parents online and at meetings have engaged in heated debates regarding the aforementioned proposals during recent months.

Many of those who live in Parkland believe that their children are entitled to attend MSD because they bought properties in Parkland in order to utilize the schools. What they fail to realize in many cases is that parents who live in the northern section of Coral Springs often bought their homes for the same reason. Some Parkland parents have even gone so far as to claim that they pay more property taxes for schooling than Coral Springs parents; therefore, they should be entitled to send their children to MSD, which is not true.

Everyone in Broward County pays the same set millage rate for schooling. Some of these Parkland parents believe that MSD is inherently better than the surrounding high schools due to the track records of their academics and extracurriculars. They often fail to do any research into the enriching programs offered at nearby schools.

The district does not determine boundary lines based on the quantity of taxes paid per city. MSD has always been a school composed of students from both Coral Springs and Parkland students. Since its founding in 1990, MSD has never been solely a Parkland school as Parkland parents online seem to believe it should be. Currently, a whopping 39% of MSD students are Coral Springs residents.

Regarding the rezoning, a large number of Parkland and Coral Springs parents have been arguing via social media sites such as Facebook over which area(s) should be removed from the MSD school zone. The problem here does not lie in the subject matter of these debates, but rather in the manner in which they are being conducted.

Entitled parents have been speaking to their fellow community members online in such a way that could potentially be considered cyber-bullying in some cases. Numerous parents have also sent threatening messages to those who have submitted proposals, disrespectfully asking them to withdraw their proposals, though only a couple of proposals have actually been withdrawn.

The arguments online are unprofessional and disrespectful in nature. Almost the entirety of the noise has been caused by parents, not by students. But despite this, parents online are setting a bad example for their children on how to behave on the internet. These parents are not exemplifying respectful netiquette, which is the general guideline for how to communicate online. Rather than trying to come to an agreement, they are showing their children that it is perfectly acceptable to treat their neighbors with disrespect over a disagreement.

The parents of Parkland and Coral Springs students have not been limited to just online debates. At the public meeting held on Nov. 3, 2022, parents further elicited highly inappropriate behavior.

When community members were given the opportunity to stand on a podium and ask questions to Jill Young, Broward County Public Schools Director of Demographics and Enrollment Planning, some were interrupted by others screaming vile insults over them. Although the purpose of the forum was simply for parents to ask Young questions, they used the platform to insult one another instead. These insults included talking about reporting fellow community members, insulting nearby schools and saying that their children do not associate with children from neighboring cities.

In general, children tend to emulate their parent’s behavior. In a time when children are accessing social media as young as elementary school, it is crucial that parents exemplify good behavior. This childish conduct by the parents is not only an embarrassment to the community, but a bad example for kids.

As far as solving the issue of MSD’s overcrowding is concerned, it is understandable that people who live in different communities will have different opinions about who to zone out of the school. What no one has brought to the floor yet is the possibility of solving the problem another way.

Although the district is not permitted to build a new building at MSD using state funds, due to the fact that there are still 6,526 seats available in Broward County Public Schools’ high schools, if the community was so inclined, they could potentially petition the cities of Parkland and Coral Springs to delegate local tax dollars toward funding the production of another building at MSD. This would assist in alleviating the issue of overcrowded classrooms; by expanding the campus, hallways and classrooms would be less crowded for students.
The method of solving the issue through construction, though it is not currently being discussed in mass, is not unprecedented. In 2016, the city of Parkland provided money to the district to construct modular classrooms at Heron Heights and Park Trails Elementary schools to ease their overcrowding issue. This represents only one of many possible solutions to the overcapacity issue.

If parents focused their attention on finding solutions that could serve as a compromise rather than fighting on the internet, they would be able to foster a stronger sense of community for their children and enable them to have kinder conversations. Even with the rezoning proposal discussions that are currently happening, parents could definitely stand to use more respectful language when addressing their community in order to set a better example for their children and for the students of Parkland and Coral Springs.