By Teachers, For Teachers
With each new headline, it seems like no school is safe.
Chicago: An honor roll student from Fenger High School, Derrion Albert, was brutal beaten to death by four classmates on his way home from school. The incident received international attention after a YouTube video of the beating was released.
Texas: A special ed teacher known for using music therapy in the classroom was stabbed to death by a student at John Tyler High School outside of Dallas.
South Florida: An “altercation” between two male students led to the stabbing death of one student. This took place between first and second period classes at Coral Gables High School.
How can we prevent more violence from pervading youth culture – in schools and out?
The Blame Game
These are just three incidents that took place in the last month, putting focus on school violence nationwide and leaving us all wanting someone to take responsibility.
In the face of these horrifying instances, it’s tempting to start playing the blame game.
§ It’s the government’s fault for not supplying enough funding and instituting ineffective policies.
§ It’s the school’s fault for not having enough security.
§ It’s the parent’s fault for raising kids capable of this violence.
§ It’s the young perpetrator’s fault for choosing to take that violent action against another person.
We’ve all played the blame game, but at the end of the day, it changes nothing. Unfortunately, there is not a single culprit. We really need to UNDERSTAND the problem to find a solution that can confront violence from each of these avenues.
Clearly, school violence is not an isolated problem – not geographically, socio-economically, racially or otherwise. It comes in different shapes and sizes and can go unnoticed until these tragedies bring it to center stage.
Violence, harassment and bullying are all tied up in the culture of schools, making this an issue that is crucial no matter who you are or where you live. Even if there isn’t outright violence and fighting, there are often more discrete forms of bullying taking place in schools.
According to an NPR article relating to the Chicago student’s death:
Chicago school officials defend the Renaissance plan and argue that there are much deeper, underlying problems leading to urban youth violence. The problem is rooted in what some are calling a culture of violence in many inner-city neighborhoods. Full story
What can we do, then, to change this culture of youth violence?
School reactions typically focus on improving school security and instituting action plans in the even that incidents occur. In Chicago, Fenger received a $500,000 federal grant to tackle the problem according to a NYTimes report.
Some commentators blame school closures that brought students from rival neighborhoods into the same schools. These people would theoretically argue to not upset the delicate balance between these rival groups.
Both of these are practical responses (though I doubt a big check to a single school will fix systemic problems), but they both accept violence as an eventuality that you need to react to rather than something that can be prevented.
The “School Violence Summit” that took place in Chicago focused on preventing school violence by providing more positive outlets for urban students in problem areas. This would include job and mentoring programs.
I like the idea in theory and hope they can make the most of the $30 million budget, but schools can’t make students participate in these programs. Schools can’t control what goes on in a student’s home. This is just the start. As the old saying goes, it takes a village.
Obviously, I don’t know any magic solutions, but I do know what I’d like to see.
I’d like to see people STOP playing the blame game and start setting better examples.
I’d like to see everyone doing their part to teach children and teens (who may feel unsafe and powerless) that there is always an alternative to violence.
I’d like to see good kids like Derrion Albert be the rule rather than the exception or, in this case, the victim.
The question is: how can we make this a reality? How can we actually make school safe for those students and teachers?