“Strangers in the Schools” Video Contest Winner!

Readers — To keep children “safe” from all those strangers who slither in on Election Day, some trfsrsehiy
schools no longer want to serve as polling places
. This prompted me to write the song “Strangers in the Schools” to  Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night.” I asked you to send in video versions for a contest. The winner is Deviant Ollam! He’ll get a signed copy of Free-Range Kids. (And, since he sometimes comes to NYC, he gets breakfast with me, too!) Spread this video, and thank you to all who submitted! – L.

STRANGERS IN THE SCHOOLS by Lenore Skenazy ( to the tune of “Strangers in the Night”)

Strangers in the schools, I look askance as

Strangers fill the schools, let’s take no chances

What if they have come with a grenade or two?


Something in their eyes, it’s so forboding

Look at how they smile, they say they’re “voting”

Something in my heart, tells me they’re perverts too!


Strangers in the schools!

Yes,  they’re my neighbors, but they’re strangers in the schools!

And at that moment when they walk into the gym, hope for life grows dim

Bludgeon all the kids they may, to celebrate Election Day.


So — If you want your kids avoiding dangers

Never let your kids encounter strangers

Strangers like the ghouls who go and vote in schools.

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17 Responses to “Strangers in the Schools” Video Contest Winner!

  1. Emily February 3, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    That was awesome!!! I can’t believe I forgot to enter……

  2. SOA February 3, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Congrats to the winner!

    My old voting place was an elementary school. It was in the gym and you entered from the outside and I don’t think really even went into the school so I don’t see the danger.

    My new voting place because we moved is in the community center

  3. SOA February 3, 2014 at 9:07 am #

    I will say though I can understand why some parents complain about voting going on at schools and it is not the stranger danger. It can complicate parking and drop off and pick up with buses and car riders. Lots of schools already have really complicated drop off and pick up procedures (ours does but we avoid it by walking) and limited parking. So yeah I would probably be complaining about that if voting was going on in their school just because it is going to cause problems with that.

  4. Sara February 3, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    I want them to stop voting in schools because they take over my music classroom which leaves me basically unable to teach for a day. If they’re voting in the library or the gym (or my music classroom) it means that kids can’t use it for the day (and then there’s the parking issue).

  5. Donna February 3, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    Great video.

    I can see many very valid reasons why schools would not want to be voting places. Traffic, parking, moving classes, messing up the after hours cleaning schedule. I see absolutely no benefit whatsoever to the school or the students in having schools be polling places.

    Why can’t the schools stick to legitimate reasons for wanting to get out of the polling place game instead of playing on the stranger fears?

  6. Papilio February 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    Congrats to the winner. I admit though I was surprised it suddenly ended! Maybe that would have been a better idea for me too, hahahahaha 😛

  7. Steve February 3, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    Nice song…well done.

    I can see many very valid reasons why schools would WANT to be voting places. But they’re clueless.

    Complaints about traffic, parking, moving classes, messing up the after hours cleaning schedule are so petty and pale in comparison to the learning that could go on if schools took advantage of voting day as a learning experience. The day could be a festival of learning!

    Voters illustrate the diversity of our culture. They could be interviewed in each classroom.

    Students and teachers could ask voters willing to participate to expound on why they came out to vote, and what their biggest concerns were. Teachers could later discuss the differences between the concerns of young versus old, American born versus foreign born. Listening to immigrants talk of freedoms we have in this country that their home country lost long ago would be of great value. Unfortunately, the students would also hear people from communist countries telling of their fear that the U.S. is beginning to look too much like what they escaped.

    The fact that schools don’t make voting day an OPPORTUNITY is a testament to the sad lack of creative thinking on the part of teachers and principals. Teachers and administrators obviously see no grand opportunity in all those strangers invading their territory. All it means to “school employees” is that they must change their daily routine, and most people don’t like change of any kind, especially if it’s imposed on them.

  8. Donna February 3, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    Sorry, Steve, but I and everyone else I know is trying to slip voting in between work, family and our other obligations. Being part of the day’s educational agenda is not part of any of our plans.

    Further, everything you indicate can be done without the school being polling places and disrupting the school day. I’ve never attended a school that was open on election day (it was always a day off). I still managed to learn all the things that you mentioned.

  9. Bob Davis February 3, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    The new words for “Strangers in the Night” reminded my of Weird Al Yankovic and Dr. Demento shows in days of yore.

    Regarding the subject of voting in schools: I think one of your commenters nailed it: It’s a nuisance for the school staff, and if they’re already stressed by overcrowded classrooms and underfunded programs, they’re in no mood to also provide the county with a polling place location. (in recent elections, our polling place has been in a church meeting room, which, as one might guess, is usually vacant on Tuesdays)

  10. Lori B February 3, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

    I don’t agree with any of the reasons people are saying schools shouldn’t be polling places. We live in a small town, and my polling place is the Jr High, in the band room. Band is a before-school activity so they move practice to the gym. There is a separate entrance, and they put up a hall gate so people aren’t wandering the halls. I’ve never been in any school where one classroom couldn’t be relocated for one day.

    Also remember, in small towns there are not many places that could be used as a polling place. If I remember right, the 3 locations in our town are the Jr High, a church, and a township building.

  11. Kimberly Herbert February 3, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

    Great video.

    Awhile back I worked in at a museum that had a strong relationship with the school district. They had a new superintendent one of his programs was to get people without kids into schools. He had 2 trains of thought.
    1. They could see good things that were happening.

    2. They could see physical problems in the schools that needed correcting.

    In his old district he had opened the buildings in the winter evenings/holidays so that the general public could exercise by walking the halls (He was from a place with heavy winter snows)

    I left to move home shortly after, so I’m not sure what happened. (The board came close to firing him because he insisted on opening schools and threatening staff with disipline action if they didn’t come to school during an ice storm – after TexDOT ordered everyone to stay off the road.

    My sister lives near a public school with a SPARK Park. The park is open to the public outside of school hours. The idea is if you encourage the public to make use of the space, you decrease vandalism. First because there are people there to be witness, second because it gives the community ownership of the space so they will protect it. OH I’ve also driven by during PE – they were teaching the kids to rollerblade!

  12. Mark February 3, 2014 at 10:55 pm #

    As a candidate out shaking hands at the polling place I felt lucky that they even let me in to use the restroom. The principal showed a little distrust, but I had dutifully gone straight to the office for permission. She said something to the effect of not letting strangers off the street use the same restrooms as the kids. But she allowed me to use the restroom adjoining the office several times. Weird thing is that you walk through what serves as the “nurses” office where a little girl was laying on a couch by herself. Obviously she was perfectly safe, but I felt bad intruding on her privacy (She looked like she felt terrible) and it didn’t really fit with the purpose of not just using the perfectly good “boys” room across from the office.

    As for traffic, this school had a lot of parking and a great gravel overflow lot. Carpool was barely impacted and buses only by extra traffic on the road. The school my wife was at (and my boys attend) was nearly impossible to vote at during carpool, but the voting didn’t interfere with them at all besides using the gym that day. So it really just depends on the school.

  13. SOA February 3, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

    I am with Donna on when I go to vote I might even have my kids with me and I am in a hurry and probably don’t have time to talk or be interviewed nor do I want to be.

    Of course talking about our election process would be a great lesson for kids.

  14. Kay February 3, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    Great job and production! What a funny (in a sad kind of way) diversion!

    SOA, here it’s because of “strangers in the schools”, not parking issues and I’ve heard of parents agreeing, they are afraid of the voters around the children.

  15. Papilio February 4, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    My – Dutch – primary school was also a voting place, but I don’t remember anything of it, as we kids were in our classrooms all morning (free afternoon on Wednesday) and the voting neighbors were in the central hallway, which was a bit of an open space. You’d see some pople you didn’t know when you went home and perhaps in recess, but otherwise, nothing.

    @Steve: “Listening to immigrants talk of freedoms we have in this country that their home country lost long ago would be of great value.”
    I don’t want to rain on your parade, but it could also be another way around: immigrants who talk of the downsides of the FPTP system with only 2 parties to choose from (but you’re right, at least it’s 1 more than China) and the advantages of the proportional representation and wide(r) range of parties their country of origin has. Or if the kids are lucky there is a French immigrant who can explain why that country chose to separate State and Church a long time ago…

  16. Emily February 5, 2014 at 7:15 am #

    @Donna–A lot of people don’t really have time to teach children anything (apart from parents, teachers, and other people who specifically set out to teach children, like youth group/Scout/Brownie leaders, etc.), but I think a lot of us teach kids things by example, just being out in the world living our lives, without meaning to. Kids see adults being polite to strangers, negotiating transactions in stores, helping people who are in need even if they don’t know them, volunteering at community events, et cetera. When I go to my (mixed-age) steel band, the younger members of the band see me (and all of the adults) helping to set up and take down the heavier drums (bass, tenor bass, double guitar, three-pan and four-pan cellos, double seconds, and a drum set that has to be assembled and taken apart each time), even though I play the much smaller and lighter tenor drum. However, I help move the larger drums anyway, because it wouldn’t be fair to make the person with the bass drums (which consist of six drums the size of garbage cans) set it up and take it down all by herself. I don’t do this to specifically teach the kids in the band anything; I just do it because that’s what I’d normally do, and the kids just happen to be there. However, it does teach them about teamwork, and often, they join in and help as well, according to their strength and ability. You wouldn’t expect to see a ten-year-old moving a bass drum, but they do help with the smaller drums and the stands, often without being asked. Maybe voting could be like the “learning from adults out in the world” examples–kids would see it happening, it would bring up questions, and the teachers (and possibly the voters themselves) could explain things.

    Also, Steve didn’t say that he thought the kids should pepper ALL the voters with questions about why they came out to vote–just those who wanted to participate. So, under his proposed system, you could go in, vote, and then go back to the law firm, and other people who have time could answer the kids’ questions. Alternatively, maybe it could be set up so that the kids asking questions would just ask those who are standing still waiting in line, and not going anywhere at that moment anyway. The idea isn’t a bad one; it just needs some tweaking so as to ensure that the adults who are in a hurry can still get in and out quickly.

  17. Donna February 5, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    Emily – It is a horrible idea. People are forced to go to schools to vote if they want to vote. They are not there willingly out of a desire to interact with the student body. They largely don’t want to be peppered with questions from kids while they wait in line. They don’t want kids looking over their shoulders or milling around watching them vote. Heck, they don’t want to even be asked if they will answer questions. They want to get in, vote and get out. And I can guarantee that the polling volunteers really don’t want a bunch of kids milling around and getting in their way while there trying to get people in to vote as quickly and smoothly as possible.

    Voting is inconvenient in general. Most people I know do it out of a sense of obligation and not a real belief that their individual vote counts for much and the US has a very low percentage of the population that votes. Getting polling workers isn’t easy. If we make it more inconvenient by inserting groups of school kids into the process, even less people will come out to do it.

    If you want your child to learn the voting process, take your child with you to vote. Stay out of everyone else’s voting. I learned everything I needed to know about voting and good citizenship despite never being in school on election day. Voting in schools provides absolutely no benefit to the school that cannot be gained other ways. If a school wants to host voting, great, but I don’t think they are grinchs for saying “this is too much of a hassle for absolutely no benefit.”