Some Catholic Schools Are Just Safe Rooms for Kids Whose Parents Are Scared of Violent Crime … Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That

A humorous look at John Zmirak's childhood, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his work.

By John Zmirak Published on June 17, 2024

Check out this story Libs of TikTok reported, which later went viral:

The nominally Catholic school (St. Bonaventure in Huntington Beach, California) where this atrocity happened didn’t back down but doubled down, as The Stream noted:

In a shocking update, [Jimmy] Heyward’s mother, Hattie Ruggles, reported Tuesday that he and his sisters have been expelled from the school. In a letter sent to their parents, administrators announced they were terminating the children’s enrollment for next year. The excuse? “Severe violations of the Christian Code of Conduct and Parent Electronic Communication Policy.” The school didn’t appreciate the bad publicity or the Ruggleses’ efforts to get the principal fired.

According to the letter, the decision to expel the children had the “support of the Diocese.”

Here’s a charming video from Fox News of the courageous young man.

Future Felons of America

You might find the above story shocking, but I don’t — because much the same thing happened to me in my own nominally Catholic high school, way back in the early 1980s. The pant-suited nuns and pro-Marxist teachers at my school sat with the principal and threatened to expel me for countering their leftist agenda.

Before I recount what happened, let me spill the dirty secret of what passes for “Catholic education” in much of America.

Growing up in New York City, I didn’t know any kid who went to public school. In my mind, that was reserved for the kids whose dads had abandoned their moms to the welfare system, or whose parents didn’t love them enough to fork over a few thousand each year to keep them physically safe. The teachers at my school didn’t have to use corporal punishment to keep us in line; instead, they could threaten us with what we saw as capital punishment: expulsion into some public school holding pen for juvenile hall, where we would serve as practice dummies on which the Future Felons of America could perfect their stabbing skills.

The main reason public schools were so awful wasn’t ethnic “diversity”; we had plenty of Latino and Haitian kids at our Catholic schools, with nice parents who were still married and went to church. (So don’t call me a “racist.”) Rather, I identify as an anti-stabbite; I refuse to be around people who might want to stab me, whatever color they might be. (And I won’t smear on any White Guilt Sunblock™ to obscure my feelings on that subject.)

The New Threat: Not Switchblades but Porn and Puberty Blockers

No, what ruined urban public schools was the fact that leftist  policies in public institutions prevented all but the most psychopathically violent, criminal kids — including gang members — from getting expelled. The worst they could be threatened with was “suspension,” which meant getting banned from classrooms they didn’t want to be in, anyway. So in those schools they remained, disrupting classes and terrorizing the bookish, the timid, the non-athletic, and the lonely.

I used to assume that all this was true of public schools across the country, just the way I thought pretty much everyone on Earth was Irish, Italian, or Greek. But once I moved out of the Northeast, I learned that in many swathes of the U.S., there used to be public schools that were reasonably safe, patriotic, and even infused with some lingering Christian sensibility from the wonderful Protestant culture that created our country — which has lately been systematically persecuted by our godless leftist elites and crooked courts.

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And there still are public schools in many places where students will be physically safe. (Hooray!) It’s only their minds that will be left to rot, thanks to the dumbed-down curricula they’re being forced to ingest. (Oh yes, and their souls may be poisoned by groomers, who press on them pornographic books specifically aimed at children, and try to recruit them as transgender subjects for puberty blockers and even gruesome surgery.)

Of course, those students who are not corrupted by filthy sex propaganda could be indoctrinated with Darwinian materialism and given Marxist history books that cast America as little better than Nazi Germany. And the boys could be terrorized by Karens who regard masculine energy as a symptom of some “spectrum” disorder, requiring doses of Ritalin or other addictive psychoactive drugs to keep them quiet and compliant.

Post-Catholic Schools Are Safe Rooms from Classroom Crime

In light of all this, Catholic schools still sound like a pretty good option — even the vast majority of such schools which are Catholic in name only, which slap a saint’s name and a few plaster statues to decorate what is essentially a “safe room” where the kids won’t get stabbed and the groomers are somewhat restrained by the pretense that the institution is in some sense residually Christian. Such schools still retain the right to kick out the worst troublemakers rather than let them terrorize everyone, as in public schools.

But ex-Catholic schools like mine or St. Bonaventure retain one element from their long-lost Catholic heritage. Alas, it’s not a keen desire to save the students’ souls and teach them the Catholic faith, nor even the old respect for the classics and Western Civ.

Nope, what they carry over is the authoritarianism, the blind respect for hierarchy regardless of what it stands for. They might not enforce (or even encourage) compliance with Catholic creeds. But they do stand for conformity and social respectability. They do take a dim view of troublemakers — and the worst kind of troublemaker isn’t the kid who sells dope in the cafeteria, but the one who talks back to the teachers, or even worse, to administrators. That’s not the kind of student such schools will tolerate, as St. Bonaventure made clear when it expelled not just Jimmy Heyward but both of his sisters, too.

When I pointed out that what my religion teacher was saying directly contradicted the words of Jesus, he smiled and sneered: “Jesus didn’t have a Master’s in Theology. I do.”

I was that kind of kid. I went to the local Catholic high school for which my dad (a letter carrier who walked all day hauling bags of mail on his back) had gone door-to-door to help raise the money to build back in the 1960s. By the late 1970s, the place had already gone halfway to Hades in academic standards, especially when it came to teaching anything recognizably Catholic. In fact, the leftist nuns would show us (I’m not kidding) pro-Sandinista propaganda movies in class and praise pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians like Teddy Kennedy for their “courage.”

I wrote about this way back in 2008, recounting my interview to get into Yale:

When the alumnus interviewing me for my long-shot, first-choice college asked me what I’d done throughout high school, I truthfully answered: “Not much. Mostly, I just prosecuted my religion teachers for heresy.”

He chuckled. “No, seriously.” Then he saw the look on my face — and whipped out his note pad.

I recounted how I’d compiled a dossier on two of our religion teachers, who’d repaid my parents’ tuition by denying … pretty much everything which any martyr has ever died to affirm — from the virginity of Mary to the authority of the pope, from the bodily Resurrection to the Eucharist. I explained how I’d moved from confronting them in class to notifying the principal, then the bishop, then at last the Papal Nuncio — the pope’s ambassador to the U.S.

“What did your school do?” [he asked.]

“They threatened to expel me. But I had my attorney draft a letter warning them we’d sue. They backed down after that.”

“Where’d you get an attorney?”

“My mother met him at one of her poker games. You know, at the church.” I told him how at that time in Queens, the diocese made up its deficits by holding all-night, high-stakes poker games at Catholic grammar schools. The Irish cops wouldn’t crack down on them, so the games metastasized and soon filled up every parish in driving distance. And my mother attended so many that to this day when I hear phrases like “St. Sebastian” “St. Rita,” “Most Precious Blood,” and “Corpus Christi,” my first thought is: Oh crap, another poker game. We’ll be eating Spam again this week.

The good news? The school backed down. In fact, the administrators seemed pretty much terrified of me after that. My Yale interviewer turned out (God is good!) to be a Jewish conservative, so he gave me the highest possible score. I got in, and my family was so broke that I went there almost for free.

My experience with the Sandinistas in high school goaded me to learn about my faith all on my own, via furious reading and research. I ended up auditing graduate theology classes from the saintly Fr. John Hardon at age 16.

And I never got stabbed. Not once. So two cheers for Catholic education, and the sound of one hand clapping.


John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or coauthor of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. With Jason Jones, he also is coauthor of God, Guns, & the Government.

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