The weakening of the American family has forced public schools to strengthen their roles as caregiver and peaceful refuge, according to an author the Rolla Board of Education has been studying.
And Thursday night at their meeting, board members agreed Rolla schools, too, have changed roles over the years, and they considered ways schools can further step into the gap left by parents who are not parenting.

The weakening of the American family has forced public schools to strengthen their roles as caregiver and peaceful refuge, according to an author the Rolla Board of Education has been studying.
And Thursday night at their meeting, board members agreed Rolla schools, too, have changed roles over the years, and they considered ways schools can further step into the gap left by parents who are not parenting.
Two weeks ago, the board began the study of Robert Putnam's "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis." Board member Dr. Greg Stratman led Thursday night's discussion of chapter 2, "Families."
Stratman opened the discussion by presenting words Putnam used in his book in relation to communities and families: struggle, different life chances, boom town, economic segregation, jobless, strip malls, low earners, rapid development, newcomers, child poverty rate, vacationers, econoic disparities, new wealth, old timers, rural areas, retirees, dying industries, high earners, trailer parks, picturesque, racial segregation, hispanic immigration, sprawling homes and unskilled labor.
Board members offered opinions on whether the words fit locally.
Obviously, the word "struggle" could fit many, perhaps most families, said board member Jane Haskell, who will lead the chapter 3 discussion, "Parenting," at the next meeting, Nov. 17.  There could be financial struggles going on in households that have not recovered from the recession. She said the schools must keep that in mind as the district continues its more into the use of personal technology for instruction.
"Economic struggles are at the heart of many other struggles," Stratman said in agreement.
Stratman then moved to a few quotations from the book, asking board members if they found the statements surprising, troubling and relevant to the Rolla community.
* " ... five years after the birth of a child, more than two-thirds of all women who were unmarried at the time of the birth (and half of all who were cohabitating at the time of the birht were no longer even romantically involved with the child's father."
* "Children who grow up without their biological father perform worse on standardized tests, earn lower grades, and stay in school for fewer years, regardless of race and class. They are also more likely to demonstrate behavioral problems such as shyness, aggression and psychological problems such as increased anxiety and depression."
Board member Jamie Myers said that contributing to the economic disparity in communities is the trend of high school-educated mothers having children in their late teens, while college-educated mothers are having them in the late 20s, or 30s, or sometimes even later.
This puts some children in the position of being raised in poverty by mothers who seem barely out of childhood. And if those mothers are single, the problem is compounded.
"School is becoming family for many, many kids," board President Keith Strassner said.
Assistant Superintendent Kelly Hinshaw asked the board members what ideas they had about what the school can do for these children. Hinshaw noted that some people might complain that the school is doing things they did not do 30 years ago, back when "times were better."
"But that is not relevant. This is the time we have now," Hinshaw said, and schools must act on what they have now.