The problem could not have been presented more starkly. The Proviso high school district convenes an essential meeting of stakeholders on school safety. The superintendent and principals show up. The school board shows up. Mayors and police chiefs and school resource officers from nine of the 10 communities which feed into Proviso Township District 209 show up.

But parents – the people responsible for bringing these students to life, the people most responsible for raising kids with solid values – well they were scarce. Scarce as in around 20 represented in a school district with 5,112 students.

We’re not ones to blame parents for all the woes their kids can cause, or to credit them fully when a youngster turns out right. As parents ourselves we know that raising kids is complex and that there are many influences. But the parents of high school kids – single, married, divorced – aren’t allowed to give up. Throwing up hands isn’t parenting. Making excuses for bad behavior isn’t parenting.

And in a school district where the problems go beyond fights and safety, where academics are failing, tax money is pissed away on patronage, and the new principal is the son-in-law of the boss of the ex-school board chief, why aren’t there parents who are just full-on outraged by the squandering of their child’s high school years?

Proviso High Schools will not improve until parents and taxpayers demand that they improve. Demand it at election time. Demand it in the board room. Demand it in the classroom, in the lunchroom, on the buses, on the way to and from school. Demand it of their kids and of themselves.

Three hundred students had a rumble across the streets of Maywood on the last day of school. It was pre-planned on social media. The principal admits they had no clue. The police chief in Hillside says in-school fights in February were blown out of proportion by cell phone videos and local TV stations. High school kids fight, he says. Yes, but in communities run by gangs and swimming in guns it is naïve to consider this a rerun of West Side Story.

Good for the Proviso school leadership to call this meeting. Thanks to officials, including Mayor Tony Calderone and two Forest Park police officials, for showing up. And shame on parents for not stepping in, for not bringing some righteous anger to what needs to be a battle for our kids and our communities.

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