School Violence

There were two articles, one in the PI and one in the Times, about violence in SPS schools not being reported to police. (My public disclaimer is that neither of my sons have ever experienced any violent behavior in any of their schools. That has not been true for all their friends.)

First, it seems that the District does NOT keep track of the records of violent behavior/incidents in any coherent fashion. Could be by design or by ineptness. (I had been looking into getting back the police officer who had previously been assigned to Roosevelt High School and had spoken to the head of security for the District, trying to get a read on what schools do have officers assigned to them. He didn't know which schools had officers, didn't know who used to or how it came about. I was unimpressed to say the least.) The District, obviously, doesn't like this kind of information getting out there. Well, they do have 47,000 students throughout the city, in all age ranges and backgrounds, so there can be no surprise that violence does occur.

From the Times:

"This year, a federal Department of Education grant has allowed the district to implement a new computer system that will combine information about incidents and make it easier for security staff to keep track."

Great but I don't think that lets Security off the hook. A bright group of people could have figured out a system to track these incidents.

So how does a school decide whether to involve police? From the Times,

"School officials have a handbook to help them determine whether they should call the police. According to the handbook, "rape, indecent liberties, exposure, etc.," should be reported to police. It also says school personnel should immediately call police if a student is robbed. It's up to the principal or the principal's designee to decide whether an assault is serious enough to warrant calling police."

A couple of things to note. It is unclear if any principals, vice-principals or security officers have any criminal justice background training. To wit from the Times:

"Tomas Gahan, King County deputy prosecuting attorney and director of the School Violence Program, said school administrators aren't in a position to decide what gets reported to police. Any allegation of sexual assault should be reported.

"Our office's position is, if there's reason to believe that a crime has been committed, then they should report it to police," he said. "It shouldn't be up to them to be the investigator. Are they trained in criminal investigations? Are they trained in sexual assaults?"

For example, Gahan said the school district should have reported last November when a Ballard High School 10th-grader told administrators she had been sexually assaulted the previous spring in a darkened hallway near the school's auditorium. She couldn't tell them which month the incident occurred, officials said, so they filed an internal report but didn't turn the incident over to police."

I do believe it is difficult to figure out an assault. If two kids are pushing and shoving each other, that's a schoolyard fight. But is it assault when someone is bruised? Skin reddened? Blood drawn? I'd have to look up the RCW for the different levels of assault but basically adults can ask for someone to be arrested who attacks them.

But sexual assault is a whole other action and one that administrators should NOT cover themselves. It sends a totally wrong message to the victim and the perpetrator, not to mention other kids who hear about it. Now, it unclear why parents of the victims would not go to the police themselves. But, even if they do, it may not be as good as reporting the crime when it happens.

Is it just about the worry of getting a kid into the juvenile justice system? That may be part what schools think about before calling the police. It may also be the worry from parents who say, "Why did you call the police over a fight?" From the PI:

"Having the police called doesn't necessarily mean kids will be charged with a crime, said Wyman Yip, chairman of the juvenile unit of the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. And if they are charged, all first-time misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses are sent to diversion, where charges aren't filed if the juvenile accepts other penalties, such as community service."

Adding to the problem? This from an article in the Chicago Tribune, Sept. 25th, 2007:

"In every state but Idaho, a Tribune analysis of the data
shows, black students are being suspended in numbers greater
than would be expected from their proportion of the student
population. In 21 states-Illinois among them-that
disproportionality is so pronounced that the percentage of
black suspensions is more than double their percentage of the
student body. And on average across the nation, black
students are suspended and expelled at nearly three times the
rate of white students.

No other ethnic group is disciplined at such a high rate, the
federal data show. Hispanic students are suspended and
expelled in almost direct proportion to their populations,
while white and Asian students are disciplined far less.

Yet black students are no more likely to misbehave than other
students from the same social and economic environments,
research studies have found. Some impoverished black children
grow up in troubled neighborhoods and come from broken
families, leaving them less equipped to conform to behavioral
expectations in school. While such socioeconomic factors
contribute to the disproportionate discipline rates,
researchers say that poverty alone cannot explain the
disparities. 'There simply isn't any support for the notion
that, given the same set of circumstances, African-American
kids act out to a greater degree than other kids,' said
Russell Skiba, a professor of educational psychology at
Indiana University whose research focuses on race and
discipline issues in public schools."

I will repeat what I have said elsewhere. Yes, the north end schools have fewer violent incidents but there are no perfectly safe schools or middle/high schools that do not experience problems with drugs/alcohol. To the best of my knowledge, the last murder committed by high school students was by Roosevelt students (off campus). So go figure.


Anonymous said…
We have had issues over the years, though they are probably minor compared to many inner city, urban districts. My son did not experience bullying at AEII elementary at all, but when he went to Salmon Bay for Ms, he experienced a lot of bullying both verbally and physically. He had a child steal his clarinet on the bus, and hit him with it. He also had a boy pull his hair on the playground (so hard that he had a big bald spot on his head). My issue, is that the school did relatively nothing about it. They didn't even know about the hair pulling even though there were 3 teachers out on the playground. My son was hesitant to tell, as the kids at Salmon Bay were quick to label you a "tattle tale", and "dis" you, according to my son. The bus assault went unnoticed by the bus driver. When we brought it to the attention of the principal, the boy was asked not to ride the bus for two days. Wow. He continued to harass my son, going so far as to sit behind him on the bus and smear lip gloss in his hair, and get the whole bus laughing at him. Kids will be kids and this stuff happens. My issue is with the school, the bus driver and the parents, who choose to do relatively nothing about it. They have this boys will be boys mentality, and it stinks. Like I said this is probably nothing in comparison to an inner city Los Angeles school with weapons and gangs, but it was very disturbing never the less.
Anonymous said…

I believe that the CITY controls the assignment of police officers to schools, not SPS. And, I wonder who you talked to, because last I was aware, the head of Security for the District was a woman (Pegi McEvoy), not a man. She replaced Larry Farer over the summer.
Anonymous said…
I thought there was some "bullying" curriculum requirement for schools to have. Sounds like Salmon Bay might need it!
Yes, of course, the City controls where officers go. And yes, it was Larry Ferrer I spoke to. But you'd think the District Security office would know which schools do (or did) have officers assigned to them, how it came about and if they are co-shared with another school (Roosevelt used to share an officer with Hamilton.) My post reflects that I said I was trying to get a read on this information and none of it was available from the District.
Anonymous said…
Anon at 6:25: It would be really helpful to me if you could pick a screen name to use. I can't figure out if there are one or two frequent posters who had trouble with Salmon Bay or a dozen infrequent posters. I think that makes a difference.

If you click 'other' instead of anonymous, it lets you enter whatever name you want and doesn't make you jump through any other hoops. Thanks!
Jet City mom said…
I believe there have been gang related shootings and deaths associated with schools/students in other parts of the city as well.

However, they do not make the big headlines as the Roosevelt case did.

My daughter is on her high school track team- her school doesn't have a track- so they have to run on the sidewalk around the school for practice, because their previous practice site, Rainier Beach is judged to be too dangerous.

Would the principal have made that call if the practice site had been Nathan Hale or Ballard?

This is also a school where the area around it is so unstable that the principal advised students to cut across the field while walking to the Metro stop- not walk on the sidewalk
Anonymous said…
Larry Ferrer doesn't work for the district any more for a reason.

I suggest you call Ms. McEvoy before you judge what information the district does or does not have.
I called the person who was in charge at the time I was seeking information. I'm suppose to keep checking every couple of months? That makes no sense.
Anonymous said…
It makes a lot of sense if someone is let go and another person promoted. You can't judge the quality of what information is avialable if you rely on an old experience with someone who was let go.
Dan Dempsey said…
As someone who has taught in LA complete with locked gates, razor wire, and police helicopters, I present the following story.

During the school year we had only two murders both were off campus and after school hours. One was a shooting at a bus stop 45 minutes after school was out for the day.

We had a teacher leave at Thanksgiving as he had the classes from hell.

Richard Napier took over the class.
Day 1: "Children for you to learn anything today we will have to begin with silence" repeat one time. Then start writing referrals by going row by row - seat by seat and asking each student if they will be silent. Write referrals for about 60% of the class and send them to the office. Then teach class.

Day 2: Same procedure except pre-write the referrals so the students who refuse to be silent can be sent to the office in 25% of the time as Day 1.

Day 3: Having been a computer wizard in addition to a Ph.D chemist Napier had downloaded all parents day time phone numbers into his cell phone from the school computer data base. Wrote the program from scratch done in 15 minutes. Proceeds same as day 2 but in addition calls parents at work when sending child to the office.

During the second week the call from the office comes "Mr. Napier this is Mr. H. you are referring too many students to the office."

"Oh, Mr. H how wonderful to get your call. Let me read you a paragraph from the law of the state of California..... Now let me read you a paragraph from the collective bargaining agreement between my union and your employer....

Now Mr. H, that you understand your job is not to count the students but to process them, that is exactly what I expect you to do. Thank You."

That was Richard's first year of public school teaching after 18 years as a professor of chemistry at U of Florida.

Richard was loved by parents and students became teacher of the year his second year. Put in endless hours helping kids become successful.


We have the same law in Washington RCW 28A 600.020 and similar school board policies. Many administrators do not want his law used. Teachers will suffer reprisals from vindictive administrators. If you think things are not up to snuff in regard to student behavior, Google "RCW Classroom Disruption". Then print it and visit the Principal, share it with teachers as well. Let everyone know that you expect the State law to be enforced.

At West Seattle during the Susan Durse regime referrals were just thrown away with no action. The RCW requires a written response to the writer of the referral with action taken described. The teacher under RCW 28A 600.020 may suspend disruptive students from class for that day and two additional days. This is the teachers job. Mr. Bivins has been great at West Seattle in this regard.

Most Principals in the SPS seem totally unaware of this law. Few teachers know about it.

Unlike the largely meaningless School Board policies that the SPS continually ignore - This is state law the SPS does not get to pick whether they wish to follow this or not. However with the vindictive culture prevalent in so much of the SPS there may be repercussions.

Oh! Richard Napier is an African American, and one of my best friends.

Anonymous said…
If you think you can suspend my child for not being silent for 1 minute, I will make you pay, and pay painfully. You will consider it your job to go to every proceeding available for the next year or so until you get your head in line. And if my child is in special education, you'll be going to even more meetings, behavior plan meetings, hearings, and then, you will get to collect data on your performance. Sounds like the West Seattle principal had a clue. Clearly the parent's in Napier's class didn't know much about their rights.
Charlie Mas said…
And will you be making as much trouble for your child who cannot behave in class?
I want any child, including mine, out of the classroom if he or she cannot follow the rules of the classroom. You get a warning and then you're out.

I have told my son if he wants to zone out in class, there's nothing his teacher or I can do. BUT, if his behavior interferes with another student's ability to learn, then he will be held accountable.

I get that there are children with challenges (my older son got dinged for staring out the window too much) and a teacher can take that into account.

But any teacher can tell you that one or two kids continually disrupting class drags it down. And, if you have more than that, the other kids take it as okay to do pretty much anything as long as it doesn't "bug" the teacher.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous at 6:52, you are truly doing your child a disservice by not holding him accountable for his behavior, and not letting his teachers do it either. It is much easier to learn now, in a school setting, than later on in a work environment, social setting, relationship, etc. The punishments are much more severe. The loss of a job or demotion, police intervention, etc.

It is much better for him to learn now. Let the teachers and school do their job. None of us want your Johnny disruptive in the class distracting everybody else.

It is parents like you that drag this district down, and make our classrooms a three ring circus. Teach your kid to be respectful of his teachers and fellow students. PLEASE.
Dan Dempsey said…
Anon at 6:52,

Clearly if you would like to know about rights you need to read:
RCW 28A 600.020

Children have a right to learn in an environment conducive to learning. Your child has no right to disrupt.

You should teach for a week in Compton, or Lynwood, or Watts in South LA county. You would then realize how high schools in the lowest 10% of achievement operate.

The current West Seattle Principal does have a clue. When I made him aware of the law. He wrote a directive addressing the law and informing teachers to call the office or security to have a security person go to the classroom and remove the disruptive child. He included office numbers and cell numbers for all administrators.

It is parents like you that aid and abet the continuance of disruptive classroom environments that have some of those 25% to 30% of Seattle Students headed to other schools.

During my first two weeks at WSHS I asked my students if they had ever experienced a classroom situation where it was difficult to learn. Most chuckled; then a girl raised her hand and said that Mr. Dempsey would describe my middle school career.

We have many school administrators at all level that find it easier to ignore the law to appease parents like you. The loss that our children and teachers endure from your thoughtless ignorance is large.

Read some research, read some law, and stop destroying schools.

Please sign your name.

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Anonymous said…
But what is disruptive? Talking during an imposed minute of silence is not disruptive. Especially, when it is imposed by some know-it-all save-the-world type trying to make a point. Remember "busting rocks" in Texas? Are LA schools wonderful now? I don't think so. I guarantee you, none of you outraged parents would stand for it if your child was suspended for that. Evidently, you can get away with it in areas impoverished areas.
Anonymous said…
"I guarantee you, none of you outraged parents would stand for it if your child was suspended for that."

Guess what?? I would not only stand for it, I would applaud the school for taking action, and helping me to teach my child a valuable lesson. The lesson: You have to follow rules. Even if it is just a minute of silence. You, my child are not above the rules, and it's better to learn it now than later.

We may not like or agree with all of the rules. I'm sure if each parent came up with their own set of rules, each set would look very very different. Like the rules or not, they must be followed. If you child does not like the rule he can work productively to make his voice heard. He can write letters to the principal and administration, organize petition letters, etc.

He can not just choose to break the rule. That is just not acceptable.

What if we all just broke the rules we didn't like? I may not like stopping my car at a red light. Ah, you see, when you are an adult you pay the price for breaking the rules. I would get a ticket. I may get several tickets and get my licence suspended. I may kill or injure someone and go to jail.

Much better and much easier to learn now. Let the school do their job. You are setting a bad example for you child, and society will have to deal with him/her later on.

There are always alternative schools, where many people with your mentality group together. Perhaps you could try one of them.
Anonymous said…
A moment of silence isn't a rule. It's some numbskull's notion of asserting dominance. And no, he doesn't get to make the rules either. The point. And yes, my kid WILL be in your class. And yes, I WILL be a thorn in that teacher's side. Don't like it? Private school for you.
Anonymous said…
My 11 year old child had an incident on the bus. He was drinking a capri sun juice drink with a straw, when another student came up to him and squeezed it while he was drinking. It squirted all over his face, and everyone laughed at him. In retaliation, my son squirted the juice box back on the kid who did it to him. The kid then decided to "beat my son up". My son, having never been in a fight before, just covered his fact and did not retaliate. The boy who assaulted him went so far as to take my sons clarinet, hit him with it and refuse to give it back to him. The bus driver claims he didn't see anything, so never intervened.

When my son told me about it, I called the boys parents hoping that I could talk it over with them, and they would discipline him at home. The parents had a very casual attitude and eluded that "boys will be boys". They didn't think he really did anything wrong.

My next step was to inform the principal. She took the incident very seriously and after interviewing both of the boys and several witnesses on the bus, she gave BOTH boys an in house suspension. They were also suspended from riding the bus for a week, and after that week they were given assigned seats far away from each other.

I asked the principal why my son received a punishment as he did nothing wrong? The principal said that my son, though not the instigator, could have tried harder to avoid the situation. He should not have squirted the juice back at the boy. He had options... he could have told the bus driver, or just dried his face and changed seats and reported the incident to the principal when he got to school.

Now, I probably would have done the exact same thing that my son did, had I been in the same circumstance, even with all of my maturity and wisdom. However, I totally understand what the principal is trying to teach the boys, and I supported her. My son took his lumps, even though he felt it unfair. And, he did learn a lesson.

Sometimes you have to see the big picture when you or the school use discipline. And, you have to support the school, unless something is truly unjust. You have to set the example that you trust your child's teachers and school, and you will uphold their rules. Just like our parents did. I couldn't come home and tell my parents how unfair the discipline was at my school. They wouldn't hear of it, and I turned out OK!!!
Anonymous said…
A moment of silence absolutely was a rule. A rule doesn't have to be imposed by the district, or administration. A teacher is in charge of their classroom and may set rules accordingly. Your child's teacher's RULE was to adhere to a moment of silence. What is so wrong with that???

And as for calling your child's teacher a Numbskull, it shows what kind of person you are. You deserve what you will reap when your child has to learn his lessons the hard way, out on the streets in the real world.

Continue being a thorn in your teachers side.....How has that been working for you??? I hope your school kicks your but, and your kids but, right out of the district. With your lovely mentoring, it won't be long until he/she winds up expelled. Good riddance!!! Hasta la vista!! BTW, that means good bye.
Anonymous said…
This is exactly why we find EBD classrooms nearly 100% full of African American males. And it is a HUGE problem for everyone. There is most definitely a cultural component to defining acceptable behavior. Not everyone agrees with the "just throw them out when they won't comply". Not everyone values compliance. It's great you liked your punishment. Not everyone would. Not everyone would agree with it for every infraction. The answer isn't constant suspension, that simply hasn't worked.
Anonymous said…
"Not everyone values compliance. "

What do you value?
Anonymous said…
Real world. The vice principal had my high performing elementary school decided the "RULE" was 5 minutes of silence in the cafeteria. Somewhat similar. Guess what? No, the kids can't be silent for 5 minutes. No, it isn't reasonable. No, he doesn't get to make idiotic rules just because he thinks he can. No, you don't get suspended for it. No, I wasn't involved. And yes, it works for me.

Now maybe that would fly in LA where he could get away with it.
Anonymous said…
My guess was that this was not the suspended child's first infraction (please correct me if I'm wrong).

It sounds like the teacher had enough of his disrespectful behavior, and resorted to a suspension for a relatively minor infraction. I can't imagine a well behaved, A+ student, being suspended for peeping during a moment of silence. Let's get real now.

Now, will someone please explain how classroom rules are cultural? It seems like another crutch. The racist thing has obviously become very distorted. It's tiring, really.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
Now let's be clear anonymous. Was it a "high performing elementary", or an impoverished one as you mentioned earlier???
Anonymous said…
How do you value independence in a school setting? How would you adhere to this independent school environment, in say, Eckstein, with 1250 teenagers?

Would you have no rules? Few rules?

How would you decide? Would you leave it up to the students? Would it be chaos? Would it be like Survivor?

Please explain. The one work answers really don't support your point.
Anonymous said…
Infuriated, the complete or nearly complete filling of EBD (behavior) classrooms with minority males is proof of the pudding. You'd be more tired if your kid was actually confined to one of these.
Anonymous said…
The elementary school is a high performing one, almost completely full of rich, white kids. Often lauded on this blog.
Anonymous said…
Just to clarify..I am the parent of the student assaulted on the bus.

I appreciated the principal taking the assault seriously, but not much was done about it, really. A 1 day in house suspension, and the rest of the week (2 days) off of the bus, and assigned seats.

I supported the school in disciplining my child, and wish that the other child would have had a much more severe punishment. I don't think schools do enough in the way of discipline. I wish they were much much stricter.
Anonymous said…
Then why did you say "it could only happen at an impoverished school" ???
Anonymous said…
Guess children are black too, and they would never be confined to an EBD classroom. We discipline them at home, support the school with discipline, and don't call their teachers numbskulls. See the pattern............
Anonymous said…
Huh?There are always alternative schools, where many people with your mentality group together. Perhaps you could try one of them.

2:24 PM

Do you honestly think alternative schools are a place where people w/ "Your Mentality group together. . . "

Yeoch - let's talk a lot of disrespect here - I don't get it - what pray tell is your definition of "Alternative School" and "Your mentality" - truly curious ?

Pls. respond and pick a name so we can better understand each other.
Anonymous said…
The person who I said "perhaps you should choose an alternative school" to, did not like schools disciplining or imposing rules on his/her child. She did not think her kid should have to adhere to the schools rules, and valued independence over compliance. My experience with alternative schools has been that they value independence too. There are much fewer rules, especially at the democratic schools like AS1. They are much more child focused, and kid led. She would not have to deal with a school making rules and holding her child accountable for not following them.

On the other hand if you choose a traditional, structured school, then you choose the philosophy too. And their rules.
Anonymous said…
May I respectfully suggest you read the Alternative Schools Report and policy. My fear is you think Alternative Schools are: a) all the same, b) hippie and kid driven; and, c) some kind of catch-all for anything goes or rejectsville -

When, in fact, if following guiding principles - is more defined than the "normal" curricula and school.

The big irony is that if "rules" are made collaboratively and on-site there is a greater responsibility attached to them adn much greater scrutiny of behavior - e.g., " There are much fewer rules, especially at the democratic schools like AS1. They are much more child focused, and kid led. She would not have to deal with a school making rules and holding her child accountable for not following them."

And, last, thanks for picking a name. It's appreciated.
Anonymous said…
Leslie, my kids went to two different alternative schools, and my experience was that there were far fewer rules than in their traditional schools. Not only fewer rules, but the few rules there were, were not firmly enforced. Kids did not have to be silent while they were read the daily bulletin (in middle school), they could eat at their desk, use the restroom whenever they needed to. They generally had much more freedom. That's not a bad thing. I wasn't insinuating such. And I certainly recognize that all alternative schools are not the same, I am speaking from my experience. When you have a parent that didn't want her kid to adhere to a moment of silence, then I suggested she look into a school with fewer such restrictions. I think that is fair and legitimate. That's why we have choice, so we can find a program that meets our needs. The term the parent used "value independence over compliance" very much sounds aligned with the alternative school we went to.

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