Friday, January 29, 2010

Sorry To Bring This Up Again

Central Mom let us know about this latest school assault, this time on a Cleveland teacher by a 15-year old student. From the PI:

"A Cleveland High School teacher had to get four stitches at Swedish Hospital earlier this week after a student beat him, police said.

School staff called the student's father to pick him up, but didn't immediately report the alleged assault to police, a police report shows.

The assault happened about 9 a.m. Monday after the teacher told the student to complete his work. The student refused and began to rip up papers.

The student, 15, tried to remove the teacher's laptop and without warning slapped the teacher in the face, police said."

The teen allegedly admitted hitting the teacher because he wanted the instructor "out of his personal space."

As I have said before, there are probably low-grade incidents of aggression at many SPS high schools and middle schools every week. This is not one of those.

What is interesting to me is that a previous event a couple of weeks go where a student threw a teacher's desk belongings around and then tried to trip the teacher had some here saying, well, he didn't hurt her. But, he meant to. If he had tripped her and she cracked her head on a desk, she could have been seriously hurt. This incident is almost of the same nature except that the teacher did get hurt.

So this student has a "emergency expulsion" for now. The school did not call the police (at least not while the student was at school). They called for the student's father who picked up his son. The police were either notified by the victim at the hospital or by school staff after the student went home.

I sincerely hope it was by the school who might have been trying to calm the situation by just letting the student go home and have him arrested there. I don't know. But if the victim had to call the police, that would be bad. Teachers have to know they are protected and back up by the school if a student tries to endanger a teacher.

I think this really points to the need for a clearer explanation from the district to all parents and staff about what happens (should happen?) to students in these cases. There is a district booklet that details their discipline policies but it seems like many incidents get handled on a school-by-school and then case-by-case basis. I honestly think there has to be a line where all cases get handled the same way. Assault is one of them.

Sadly, there was also this in the story:

"Seattle Public Schools administrators have failed to call police for several serious incidents in the past, including a 2007 incident in which a developmentally delayed high school girl said she was sexually assaulted in a school bathroom."

SPS hurts itself by not having clear directions on what teachers and administrators are to do in these cases.

25 comments:

Toni said...

Thank you for continuing to bring this up Melissa. Since the district does not provide any data, this blog and the newspaper are our only sources for information about school violence.

What is the environment like at Roosevelt? Is it just the occasional fight? Or, are there other more serious incidents there?

Hale has had their share of violence this year. A few strong arm robberies (student on student), two assaults at their bus stop, fights, weapons, kids busted for dealing drugs, etc.

Wondering if this is just the way HS in Seattle is.....

mkd said...

I hate to repeat myself, here though I believe it is warranted.

Without a zero-tolerance policy against all violence and bullying, where do we draw the line? Perhaps the line between "just fights" and outright aggression could be judged on the relative weight of the fighters - that is, fair fights are only fair if they land in the same weight class. Hey, let's charge money. Girl fights are more entertaining, especially if accompanied by hair pulling and biting as onlookers stand around yelling "fight, fight, fight." Weight class would not apply, cat fights make great entertainment. Let's put it all on YouTube. How about the big teen boy snuggling up close to your freshman son, you know, the kid who jokes about your son's sexuality as he tries to place his hands in places they really don't belong in order to entertain his group of cronies? I suppose we could ignore it and brush it off as sexual exploration, a boy searching for his identity, probably just boys being boys. What about the high schooler who chokes another in the middle of class, an unprovoked attack that leads to hospitalization? It's not stealing, just looking or borrowing. It's not punching, just a love tap (even if one ends up out cold on the ground). Like permissive parenting, case-by-case is an ideal, not reality. All kids need and appreciate boundaries, and if parents can't or won't, the school has to have clear policies posted that outline rules and consequences, that students agree to and parents sign off on, to prevent arguments when emotions run high.

As for infringements like pot or smoking, schools have to have the right to prohibit these activities, at least on campus.

Can you imagine any employer putting up with this behavior?

I agree that learning limits and boundaries is supposed to be part of good parenting. Not all kids have good parents.

Violence is violence, no matter how you sugar-coat it. Let them learn somewhere, "if you do the crime, you do the time." In the end, I believe it is preferable to learn that poor choices carry consequence before graduation than after. Penalties often increase exponentially once you turn 18.

Melissa Westbrook said...

My son doesn't tell me that he sees a lot of fights, etc. I myself don't spend as much time there as I did in the past. I think there is always - as at any school - petty thefts.

Michael said...

Simple assault is still assault, whether committed by a student or a teacher. The school should have immediately called the police. If the District doesn't reprimand the principal for not immediately calling the police in this situation, how can District employees know that their management stands behind them?

Josh Hayes said...

As of Tuesday, district policy is that police contact with students is not allowed until parents can be present, according to a Principal in SPS.

Since anything learned by police in questioning minors without parents present is automatically excluded from any criminal proceeding, it's hard to see what else school administrators can do. I suppose police could transport kids to precinct stations to await their parents?

Ananda said...

Read between the lines here. There are special rules and protections for special education students. The spokeperson's answer reads to me like this is one of those times where the student is a special ed student so the district can't say why things happened the way they did.

none1111 said...

How long was that transition going to be again? To turn Cleveland into a STEM school? Geeks and Gangstas side by side, oh, it sounds so sweet.

Anyone see a problem mixing these 2 very different populations together? Maybe not as bad as combining gangs from 2 HS, but raise your hand if you think it will be a smooth transition, without robberies and physical altercations between the students. No hands, huh?

Josh, I would question your principal contact's understanding of the situation. It almost certainly depends on the level of confrontation. A little slapping around in the hallway isn't going to bring police, but if a kid is brandishing a weapon, even a knife, or is physically uncontainable, you can bet they'll be calling police immediately. For the safety of both students and staff.

I sure hope Princess understands her role in this moving forward. This does not sound like it was well-handled, and she's going to be continuing on as principal, right? Glad I'm not making a decision about STEM this year.

Charlie Mas said...

So what should the school have done? What would have been the benefit of having the police come to the school and remove the student?

Does the school have a responsibility to call the police?

Given that the victim was an adult, who is fully capable of protecting his own interests, shouldn't he be the one to call the police and decide whether or not to file charges?

The victim went to the hospital and the student was expelled and sent home, so the people involved got to where they needed to be. There is no urgency to the police action, was there? Would a few hours delay make any difference? The police can - and did - interview the victim at the hospital and the student at home. So why should the school administrators call the police and have them come to the school as if it were time sensitive - as if it were an emergency?

I can see the need for the school to call the police if the victim were a student. They have a responsibility to act as in loco parentis and make that call on behalf of a minor. But the school is the teacher's employer, not the teacher's parent. The teacher can make the police report himself - and apparently did.

Is it because the school administrators had cause to believe that a crime had been committed and, as a government entity (or just a responsible institution in our society), has a duty to report the possible crime - and report it promptly?

What's the thinking here/

GHUG said...

I don't remember the police being called when I was in high school...and there were fights.

There are "nerds" and "gangsters" at Garfield.

Bella said...
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Bella said...
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sully said...

You know I keep hearing people talk about how this "violence" would never be tolerated by adults in the real world.

Well I have to tell a little story. My 11 year old son was playing in a flag football game which was held at Nathan Hale. While the game was going on a lady was jogging around the NH track. Parents and sibs were on the sidelines cheering and kept inadvertantly blocking the lanes of the track where the lady was jogging which irritated her. Instead of moving to one of the outside lanes (which were free of parents and sibs) or talking with one of our coaches, or any parent she decided that she was just going to shove any children in her way. When we witnessed her roughly shove a child we thought it was an accident. Then she came around again and shoved another child (a 4 year old) down to the ground, kept running and elbowed another kid in the chest and caused him to lose his wind.

One of the parents called the police who came out and took a report. The officer asked if anyone had been hurt or injured, but they hadn't been. Though the parent of the shoved kid kept insisting that she wanted to press charges, the officer said he would take the report and turn it in to the prosecuter but that in all likely hood it would go nowhere because nobody was hurt or injured. And, he was right, it went nowhere.

Now, if an adult can shove a kid down to the ground and nothing come of it, why would we be so harsh on children who shove or push each other, or even fight? They are still learning life lessons, yet we treat them far more severely than an adult bully who should know better.

I won't bore you but I can give you several similar incidents with similar outcomes. So why are we so much harsher on our children.

A long term suspension, expulsion, and police call goes on a kids permanent records. An out of district school will no longer take your child, nor will most private schools. And, they have to disclose these incidents on their college applications. Does a shoving match between kids really warrant these type of consequenses? Personally, I don't think so. I think draconian is an understatement for what has been going on in SPS schools with discipline.

And, I do realize the situation that Melissa posted about is different in that the teacher was assaulted and needed stitches. However, I agree with Charlie - since the victim was an adult, and the situation was not emergent or time sensitive it should have been up to the adult to call, or not call, the police.

Melissa Westbrook said...

My point, again, is the district should make clear, to parents, what happens in situation X. No, you can't write rules for every situation but we just ran thru a few here (student pushing student, student hitting student, etc.) It's kind of like this current wave of "sexting" situations. Kids and parents need to understand the consequences right from the start. When do police get involved?

none1111 said...

Charlie made some good points; and I made the classic mistake of responding before reading the full, original article in the P.I. Everything ultimately ended up with reasonable results. And "four stitches .... after a student beat him", sounds very different from "slapped the teacher in the face". Both are unacceptable, but different in magnitude.

But it's still bothersome that the school did not report the incident right away. It's not clear they reported the incident at all. It's very likely that the teacher showed up at the hospital and had to make a report to be admitted, at which point the hospital has an obligation to contact police to report that an assault occurred. This is where I blame the principal, and the district in general (this is not the only incident, as noted in the article).

Even the police said: "school staff members have an obligation to call police when a crime -- such as a serious assault -- occurs on school grounds". This was without question, assault, in both a legal and practical sense. So Charlie's assertion that the teacher can just deal with it himself is not necessarily true.

and Sully said: "Now, if an adult can shove a kid down to the ground and nothing come of it, why would we be so harsh on children who shove or push each other, or even fight? They are still learning life lessons, yet we treat them far more severely than an adult bully who should know better. " and " A long term suspension, expulsion, and police call goes on a kids permanent records. An out of district school will no longer take your child, nor will most private schools. And, they have to disclose these incidents on their college applications. Does a shoving match between kids really warrant these type of consequenses? Personally, I don't think so. I think draconian is an understatement for what has been going on in SPS schools with discipline.'"

Your story about the jogger is terribly sad. The woman has serious problems, but the situation went as one would expect. Public environment, obnoxious person, no serious injuries, the crowd should have been able to get that situation under control. This in no way justifies her behavior, but rather, it shows what happens when people don't face serious consequences for unreasonable behavior. Look how they turn out. You don't think that's the first callous thing she's done in public, do you?

So if you're trying to say that high school "kids" (on the verge of young adults by the time they graduate), should not be responsible for their own violent behavior, then you are part of the problem our society faces. Sexual assaults, violent attacks resulting in stitches, these are not mild playground shoving matches, these are kids who are out of control, and need serious help. Sadly, for many of them, by the time they are in high school it's already too late. Surrounded by people who tolerate, and even encourage this kind of behavior, they have already been cast into an unfortunate mold, and many will end up in trouble for the reminder of their lives. I've seen more than my share of this firsthand, so don't even try to argue this.

Kids need to understand that there is no tolerance for violence. Period. Especially at school. You don't need to get police involved unless there are injuries, or something of a serious nature. But you absolutely need to teach kids from a young age - and show by example when necessary - that violence will not be tolerated. Especially at schools, where our children are required by law to spend much of their young lives.

Do not hold up a bad example/result (the jogger) as a justification for ignoring problems at a younger age, when there's still a chance to reach these kids.

Sahila said...

All this talk about 'if you do the crime, you do the time' makes me laugh...

I spent 20 years as a military wife, married to a military policeman...

The joke amongst the troops was that it wasnt the behaviour that was wrong, the crime was being found out/caught....

If you look at what young people are exposed to in the media and in pop culture, you'll see that violence is portrayed as a normal activity and that the crime is being caught...

Archaic and harsh disciplinary measures dont instil confidence, co-operation, compliance and a commitment to change - they only create resentment towards authority figures, allegiance to negative role models and lifestyles and a commitment to avoiding detection in the future...

And no, I dont advocate for the acceptance of violence as a viable and OK mode of getting what one wants/holding one's ground... I'm a pacifist, it pains me deeply that my elder son is serving militarily in Afghanistan and I left my last marriage because of domestic violence....

Josh Hayes said...

none1111 sez:

"Sexual assaults, violent attacks resulting in stitches, these are not mild playground shoving matches, these are kids who are out of control, and need serious help."

Absolutely. The trouble is, mild playground shoving matches, as you put it, are treated as if they were hair-raising full-on assaults. Because that's what the district "time tracker" says.

So if you suspend a kid for a playground scuffle for, say, 30 days, you've really cut into the available ceiling. It looks to me like the district has started from the smallest offenses and worked upwards, when what they should have done is the reverse: start with enumerating offenses which are clear expulsion situations, and then work backwards toward the more and more minor offenses.

As it stands, even trivial, and I do mean trivial, offenses, warrant multiple-week suspensions. Threatening someone with an imaginary knife warrants - wait for it - multiple week suspension. The lesson kids learn is that every, any, physical altercation is the same as any other, so long as actual lethal force isn't employed -- that is, after all, what the district policy is. A shove is, after all, the same as a beating. Right? Of course it is! The rules say so!

And the poor Principal is the enforcer in this idiotic plan. You couldn't pay me enough to be the interpreter of the district's byzantine rules about behavior.

none1111 said...

Josh said "The lesson kids learn is that every, any, physical altercation is the same as any other, so long as actual lethal force isn't employed -- that is, after all, what the district policy is. A shove is, after all, the same as a beating. Right? Of course it is! The rules say so!"

So what you're saying is that the district needs to work on their "fidelity of implementation" with respect to discipline policies? ;-)

Joking aside, while I have not had reason to delve into the SPS discipline polices (and hope I never have to) I would agree that there should be a gradual, but steady increase in the prescribed responses to escalating types of misconduct. And it should both make sense, and be comprehensible to students of different ages.

Also, intent should play very prominently. A scraped knee as a result of an intentional push down some stairs, deserves a harsher response than a broken nose due to accidental behavior, even if it may have been a bit wild. I've heard 3rd-hand talk of poor discipline choices along these lines as well, but it's not always easy to determine intent. I guess it's no better, or worse, than our legal system, which is fraught with many of the same difficulties.

Michael said...

Charlie says "Given that the victim was an adult, who is fully capable of protecting his own interests, shouldn't he be the one to call the police and decide whether or not to file charges?" I presume you mean legal and civil interests, but what about the teacher's right to defend themselves? What if the teacher had done what was necessary to stop the assault and ensure that it didn't continue? Would that teacher then be in the wrong? Would parents be up-in-arms that the teacher defended him/herself?

Yes, the lesson should be taught early that if you do the crime, you do the time. Laugh all you want, but it makes a bigger impression than you might think. Those kids that react to the police being called due to violence by creating a commitment to avoiding detection in the future are already in a criminal mind-set. I know that some of you will scoff at this, but sometimes it takes this kind of early intervention to save a child's future.

sully said...

Sometimes, is the key word Michael. Every situation is different. Sometimes it warrants suspension, expulsion, police, and sometimes it doesn't. Most teenage boys are going to engage in a shoving match, a scuffle, maybe even a fight, during their school career. Most, don't have criminal mindsets.

I was at my 11 year old sons basketball game last night, and a kid on the other team was playing quite aggressively. He "bumped" into a kid on our team pretty hard, and the kid on our team, who had had enough, shoved him - pretty hard. It happened on the court, but didn't interfere with the game (or maybe the ref just didn't see it) but it wasn't called and the game went on. The aggression between the two boys stopped. They resolved it.

I couldn't help wondering what would have happened if they were on an SPS MS or HS basketball team? One or both of the boys probably would have gotten a long term suspension for "bumping" or "shoving". The principal might have had to call the police, after all, it was an assault wasn't it?

Dorothy said...

Every year my son attended SPS (well, perhaps not Kindy) he came home with a detailed chart of all sorts of infractions and the consequences. Very detailed and very clear. Just what you guys are saying should exist. Well, it does. Perhaps it is available on the district website and can have a thread here.

The thing that I think is missing from this discussion is the perils and pitfalls of the principal having too much discretion. Then, kids in different racial or SES groups have unequal outcome for the same offense. When I used to hear about that complaint, that Black kids were disciplined more and more severely than other kids, well, I'll admit, that my first reaction was that they must commit offenses more often too.

But I am a numbers person and attempt to be logical, so when I kept hearing that claim I started paying attention, reading studies and reading between the lines of events. And now I believe that there's something to it. That too much discretion from the adults can backfire. And that sometimes what's important is the adult trying to defuse the situation (not always, but the pencil for a cellphone case probably counts) there's likely unintentional bias there as well.

(Oh, and This American Life this week had a rebroadcast of an interview with Geoffery Canada, not for the Harlem Children's Zone, but for a book he wrote years ago: Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun. A memoir, how the universe of childen's violence has changed as the weapons changed. Worth listening to. MY husband has read the book and really liked it. Perhaps it should be on the LA materials adoption list.)

seattle citizen said...

I listed to that Canada piece on TAL, Dorothy, and was reminded how we've lowered ourselves from personal responsibility, honor, connection to the community (even if it's through the rough-and-tumble method of fisticuffs) to the purely base (and manufactured) power of guns.

Where fighting used to (at least) represent a personal willingness to stand and have some courage (even if it meant losing - at least you tried) now, in the most hard-core scenarios, it has devolved to whoever has a gun and the willingness to use it.

We've gone from "willingness to stand and fight" to "willingness to pull a trigger" - surely a large leap forward into psychosis.

What was especially disturbing was Canada's claim that gun manufacturs, having maxed out sales to adults, targeted (no pun intended...an apt word here....) youth to increase sales. Oh. My. God.

Along with the perennial claims (accurate, in my opinion) that video games desensitize youth to real pain and real death, and (in my opinion) the sometimes callous, individualistic aspects of capitalistic competition ("I've got mine; you get your") we are creating with our industry and our social mores a society that pulls the trigger rather than stands courageously.

Again: It's not the schools - it's the community. We can't ask schools to fix everything, and we can't expect schools to teach counter to the prevailing ethos by teaching respect, community and collaboration when the world outside increasingly applauds nihilism, selfishness, and a disregard for the well-being of others.

sully said...
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sully said...

Speaking of sexting...

There was a story on the news about a 14 year old girl, who sent her 14 year old boyfriend a naked photo of herself via cell phone. When the couple broke up the boy forwarded the picture to several people who then spread it all around the school.

The boy and two friends who also spread the picture around are being charged with viewing and sharing child pornography. If convicted they would face going to a juvenile detention center for 30 days, and they would have to register as a sex offenders.

Again, I'm not condoning what the boy did. It was in poor taste, and he used very bad judgement. He definately needed a consequence. But a conviction of viewing child pornography? Jail? Having to register as a sex offender? And, what, if any, responsibility should the girl take? She sent the photo of herself to her boyfriend?

This didn't happen in Seattle BTW, it was either Lakewood or Olympia, I forget. Saw it on the news a few days ago.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I think the laws have to be pretty strict about child porn. Otherwise, real pornographers could pay teens to send photos. That's why we all have to keep drumming it into our kids' heads that sexting is a truly stupid thing to do and could end them up in jail.

Dora Taylor said...

And amidst all of this insanity we are to judge our teachers by how well their student perform on a standardized test? Per the reformists chant of teacher effectiveness based on student assessments?

We really need to be talking abut smaller class sizes and expectations of behavior in a classroom so that teachers CAN teach.

The other option is like the Harlem "Miracle" which means going into the communities and family's homes to deal with the issues that are affecting the behavior of students in school.

It is not as simple as what is spelled out in the Community Values Statement. It is so much more than that.