On Monday, a 15-year-old boy was stabbed to death and another was hospitalized after a brawl at Southeast Raleigh High School. The situation was complicated, with the family of the 14-year-old boy charged with the crimes saying that he had been targeted for violence by those he stabbed.

A video of the incident circulated widely online, going viral nationally. Notably, during the whole affair, which went from a hallway into the gym, there were not any administrators, teachers, or school resource officers immediately visible attempting to stop the deadly altercation.

Like many public schools, Southeast Raleigh High saw a large jump in discipline problems after COVID-19. From the 2018-19 school year to the 2021-22 school year, violence at public schools in North Carolina jumped by 24%.

This isn’t just a problem in Raleigh though. A couple days later, a gun was found in a student’s backpack at Rocky Mount High, and Carrboro High was evacuated after a student called in a fake bomb threat.

While violent behavior has clearly been rising, to blame it all on COVID, I think, misses the mark. COVID no longer has a major effect on day-to-day operations at most schools, and virtual lessons are no longer the primary method of teaching.

The pandemic clearly exacerbated some underlying causes, like with screen use, family structure, and mental health. The fact that students struggling with these issues are being met by administrators unwilling to enforce clear, common-sense rules seems to have just poured gasoline on the discipline crisis.

Teachers, though, did not sign up to be police officers or social workers. They likely learned some “classroom management” skills in their training, but they envision themselves nobly helping students learn to read and do math so they can go on to be productive, stable adults.

Teacher attrition across the country, including here in North Carolina, is rising. Unions and public-school-only advocates will tell you that it’s due to miserly conservative legislators not paying them what they’re worth. But according to one survey of 615 resigning teachers across six states, student discipline was by far their biggest reason for leaving.

Responses to the increase in violence have been varied. Many progressives want to go all-in on “restorative justice,” which seeks to heal inequities and traumas experienced by both the victims and perpetrators rather than to punish. Unsurprisingly, these tactics have not been effective and have contributed to the climate of lawlessness.

There are also well-documented issues around screen-addiction and mental health that add to the difficulties. Assaults of teachers have occurred when the teacher attempts to take a student’s device. At many schools, they have surrendered on the fight and just give students complete freedom to play on their smart devices all day.

One recent article in Fortune, titled, “School kids are so violent coming out of the pandemic that they’re sending teachers to the hospital, but an expert says to resist ‘get tough’ approaches,” argues we shouldn’t so quickly throw out restorative justice. They say there are problems with thinking a return to “exclusionary” discipline methods, like suspensions and expulsions, will be a silver bullet.

But one thing is clear: something needs to change. As a proponent of school choice, I can’t help but think the answer lies with more options.

The mother of the Raleigh stabbing perpetrator says that her son felt in danger and that she had warned the school. As more charter schools open and as more hear about the universal private-school voucher program, maybe parents in situations like these can put their child in a safer environment before tragedy strikes.

If a school is particularly dangerous, multiple parents pulling their students can be the canary in the coal mine to let administrators know that they are failing to create a safe place for students to learn.

Teachers, too, can find new places to pursue their dream of teaching. If one school makes them feel in danger, they can go to another. More options for students will mean more options for teachers. Schools that don’t get many takers for staff or students will be forced to make drastic changes.

And school choice is also a solution to how to deal with extreme behavior by students. Many administrators are discouraged from disciplining students. Often this is due to a genuine care for the students and their needs. What if, after a student was repeatedly disruptive, the district had a number of options, instead of just suspension or sending them back to class?

Yes, many districts do have alternative schools available, but have there been any major recent innovations in this area? If we really want to interrupt the “school to prison” pipeline, where disruptive students soon end up behind bars after leaving school, much more attention should be put into creative solutions for out-of-control students.

Maybe “restorative justice” could contribute some lessons. Maybe bootcamps and religious schools, boarding schools and Montessori schools, vocational schools and early colleges can all contribute.

I’m sure many districts have experimented in these areas, but they often have limited flexibility to try new methods. School choice could launch many new options, and out-of-control students can be quickly removed and placed in another environment where they will be able to better thrive.

This would not only be better for them, but for the teachers and the other students, whose classroom productivity was being disrupted and whose safety has been threatened.