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Monday, March 23, 2009

Solving the Safety Issue for High School

There was a terrible police shooting in Oakland this weekend. Four officers were killed (one is brain dead from the shooting) when a parolee started shooting after being stopped in his car. Two of the officers were killed when they were trying to find the shooter at his sister's apartment after the initial shooting. From an article in the Times today:

"The parolee who shot five Oakland police officers Saturday, killing three and gravely wounding another, was hiding inside his sister's apartment just around the corner, where he ultimately was shot dead himself.

And neighbors knew it. But they didn't call the cops for nearly an hour.

If neighbors had spoken up sooner, said one woman who lives two doors down, some of those lives might have been saved. But in East Oakland, lamented the woman, Elaine, who refused to give her last name, that just doesn't happen.

"I've been crying all day. It makes you feel bad," she said, wiping her eyes just steps from the blood spatters that clung stubbornly to a broken sidewalk on 74th Avenue. "Because all the time, you knew he was in that apartment. But you just don't want to be a snitch. The word, 'snitch,' it's almost worse than murderer."

So why am I writing about this incident? Because of the shootings of several young men in the south end of Seattle over the last 6 months. Virtually nothing has happened in any of the cases because no one saw anything or no one wants to speak up (either out of fear or being labeled a snitch). (I guess reporting something anonymously isn't any good because the shooters will presumably believe a family member reported it and retaliate against them.)

As we talk and discuss the assignment plan with regard to high schools, there is clearly a safety issue for many south end parents. Some of it may be the perception that schools in the north are better but I believe it is much more about safety. I've seen a few comments here that seem to imply that if parents at those schools got more involved the problem might be lessened.

Public safety is one of the number one services of government. That includes the City and the district. They can't stop the number of people running around with guns but they can make sure there are metal detectors at schools that need them, security, police and violence prevention programs (especially in middle schools). And if we have a no-tolerance policy for any kind of gang dress, signs or activity, it needs to be enforced. Where parents could likely help is to let police know if they see any kind of gang activity (even hanging around) around schools.

If you have a community culture that refuses to believe in law enforcement and/or lives by their own code, then we will never have safe streets or safe schools.

35 comments:

ScootCoot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

Melissa, you write that
"If you have a community culture that refuses to believe in law enforcement and/or lives by their own code, then we will never have safe streets or safe schools."

My fear is that we have a GROWING community culture that refuses to believe in law enforcement and/or lives by their own code.

We as a community must face our responsibility in this. My feelings are that some of it is caused by a diminishing respect for society, generally, by a culture that commidifies everything, by a corporate culture that often works its own way around the rules and regs of THAT culture (i.e. corporations are not subject to criminal penalty...)

This is just a feeling, but when children see adults taking a relaxed attitude about respect, about relationship, about what happens to OTHER people, then they learn that it is okay to "each to their own."

I hope we can look at cultural underpinnings of these issues so as to address them from the adult side.

dj said...

I live right up the street from where Tyrone Love was killed. From what I have been able to gather, he was killed because he was cooperating with police. Is it difficult to understand why other people might not want to end up in his shoes? Meanwhile, we have an open-air drug market on Union near 23rd and had the murder at the Philly Cheesesteak on that corner; the neighborhood put in a police drop-in center, and the police will not drop in. You can read all about it over at Central District News.

http://centraldistrictnews.com/2009/03/18/spd-drop-in-center

SolvayGirl said...

Safety is only one of the reasons many southend parents are reluctant to put our children in southend high schools, and it's not really at the top of the list. If that were the case, there'd be no one at Garfield, a school that has seen much more violent crime near its doors than either Rainier Beach or Cleveland.

Instead, it is the academic climate at the school, the level of rigor and amount of student engagement that makes us look elsewhere.

On this blog there has been much testimony about how all Spectrum programs aren't equal, how all AP classes aren't equal and how expectations are not equal. It is the sense of lower expectations and level of rigor in southend middle and high schools that make us look elsewhere.

It is the District's biggest hurdle...how to successfully serve a high at-risk population and serve a more affluent/less needy population simultaneously.

They do it at Garfield with the AP program. And because it is the official AP program, most parents believe that it is superior to others. It offers more variety of AP classes than any other school but Roosevelt. The AP Program guarantees a certain percentage of the school will be high-performing, and since the AP classes are technically open to all students, it makes for an attractive alternative to other southend schools.

The upshot of this is that all the metal detectors and cops on campus in the world won't make up for low expectations, lack of rigor and fewer offerings. Add in PTSA raised funds for extras (see the budget posts on this blog) at their wealthier neighbors, and the southend schools are stuck being the less sought after.

seattle citizen said...

Solvay,
I agree, and add that along with advanced classes there needs to be a seamless developmental array of support for academics. Particularly with at-risk students, there is often, if not always, some developmental lag in one or more areas (some of these students are geniuses, but have disconnected for various reasons.)
So schools must provide an array of services, from below level to above.
And, of course, a variety of other supports: schools are often the ONLY place some of these students have where they can get attention from those who care. It might be available elsewhere, but schools can provide centralized services at a place students go to every day (hopefully!) And students often look at school staff as the go-to for this sort of non-academic support.

ParentofThree said...

Re Garfield. I know parents with students at Garfield and they are VERY concerned about the increase of violence this year. I think that if they don't get it under control you may start to see enrollment decline, especially since AP offerings are increasing at other schools, there are now two IB programs and Cleveland is really starting to emerge as a great choice, epsecially once they become a STEM school.

SolvayGirl said...

What's a STEM school?

dj said...

Is there an increase in violence at Garfield? Or an increase in violence near Garfield during non-school hours?

That's a genuine question. Certainly I'm familiar with the shootings nearby at night, but I don't know anything about the on-campus stats.

dan dempsey said...

STEM=
Science Technology Engineering Mathematics

ParentofThree said...

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

The violence is happening around the school and there is a lot of concern for student safety - to the point where a police officer now stands guard inside the school. There has also been an issue with the Metro bus stop that most students get use. Drug activity, as I understand it.

BullDogger said...

I agree with SPSmom. Parents are going to think twice about Garfield. My child gets a good education at Garfield but we can't wait to leave the C.D. behind us.
Regarding DJ's question the violence is systemic. Read the Times article on Sunday about Tuba man's murder. Garfield students are the prime suspects and our kids go to school everyday with these animals.

In this discussion people keep looking to the district to solve. SPS's security folks are a fairly ineffective bunch but at the core I hold SPD and the mayor highly accountable. It upsets me how often I see SPD resources allocated to insignificant speed traps in Seattle yet little presence is shown at 23rd and James, Jefferson or Jackson.

The mayor put a good spin to it back in November after the halloween killing but very little follow thru. Police should be constantly in Garfield and on all the nearby problem corners. There's no income potential in that though.

ParentofThree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
owlhouse said...

BullDogger-
I really hope you are expressing your concerns to the the Mayor, city council and SPD. Long after you've left the CD behind, many of will still live here, and we could use support from those in other areas of the city.

Anonymous said...

The problem is not a school safety issue (there has been very little violence in the school or even during school hours) but a community safety problem. I agree with Bulldogger that the blame lays with the mayor and the SPD, but on a deeper level the problem is our ridiculous unwillingness in this state to tax ourselves to pay for basic public services. Given the class sizes and other problems in the SPS and the lack of sufficient police officers to engage in basic community patrols, I sometimes feel like I'm living in the midst of some sort of ill-advised liberterian experiment.

momster said...

Re low expectations and self-sabotaging behavior - did anyone hear tavis smiley interviewing myron rolle this weekend? rolle is an african american student who has his choice of nfl or rhodes scholarship and is choosing the latter first.

tavis asked him all kinds of great questions, like "when you were focusing on academics, did people accuse you of 'acting white' and if so, what did you do about it?"

and "how did you focus on academics at the same time you were doing what it took to become and nfl-caliber athlete?"

rolle's parents are from the bahamas and he ended up going to a boarding school for high school, so he isn't every kid, but he had great answers and advice for parents everywhere - it was encouraging to listen to.

link is here or see the tavis talks radio website if the link doesn't work.

'acting white' and 'snitching' are killers for the parts of the african american community that need them least. not sure what the district or spd can do about either of them - but it's good to hear tavis smiley calling out at least the one (and my guess is he's talked about the other as well).

seattle citizen said...

"'acting white' and 'snitching' are killers for the parts of the african american community that need them least."

Without diminishing the problem this might be in the African American community, I would suggest that the terms be expanded to include larger parameters to see the larger size of the issue:

"Acting rich and snitching are killers for the parts of the disenfranchised community"

Rebellion of youth against authority is eternal, and probably a good thing. What's happening in the here and now (and has happened in the past...see the decadance of Rome, or the ostentatious rococo and powder-puffery and, hence, downfall of the "elite" of pre-revolutionary France...) is that the role models (us, the enemy we have met, bless you Walt Kelly) have declined. Corruption in high places, piles of wealth piling higher at the top as it drains from the bottom, some (a few) police officers still profiling due to race or class, services to the poor cut...

So it's not just Blacks who might disdain "acting white," or acting like one of those rich folks, but others. Maybe they see a larger system that doesn't value fairness, or equity. Maybe they see large corporations (owned, largely, by white men) co-opting what was once rather up-beat hiphop and turning it into violence-ridden "gansta" rap. (here's that story: urban blacks are "cool", or outsiders. They have a new music (hip hop) that's got cred and is, this commodifiable. Execs offer lucrative contracts, but ask for little more of that ol' fashioned sex and violence: hip hop stories about rising out of, or living successfully in the ghetto don't sell.

So "our own" media created these violent songs. That and the reaction of some to a violent world in which they're treated like dirt.

It isn't just African Americans. it's lots of people trying not to "act rich."

anonymous said...

Does NOVA have the same safety concerns as Garfield? They are just a block away, yet I never hear anything from their community??

hschinske said...

Re Nova: there's been some discussion lately about muggings and what not in that area. I'm definitely hearing the same concerns that Garfield students/parents have.

Helen Schinske

seattle citizen said...

I'd imagine that one thing NOVA has going for it is its small size. How many are there, 300? Garfield is...1600? 1800?

If someone wanders in off the street at NOVA, there is a much greater chance they will be recognized as a non-student as a stranger at Garfield would.

Something to be said for small schools is that familiarity with everyone in the building.

anonymous said...

And, how is student safety dealt with within a building. I remember hearing of several safety concerns at John Marshall, and of course the gang related issues at RBHS, Cleveland, and Ingraham.

seattle citizen said...

And Ballard. Ten years ago, a young woman was killed in a drive-by, an innocent bystander (on school grounds.)

All schools have these issues. I point this out to remind people that while they might not SEE gang stuff, or bullying, or other instances of young people hurting young people (physically or psychologically) it is everywhere, not just a few schools like Cleveland or Marshall.

Metal detectors might help...a little. But that is a draconian solution (partial) that is very, very difficult to implement.

Cultural shifts in how we deal with all this, and how we represent ourselves as adults, are much more effective than a machine at the door.

anonymous said...

Yes, and I've heard from SEVERAL families that the security officer at Hale is inefficient. Apparently, he "hangs out" with the kids, and turns the other cheek, alot.....

Hale had that awful incident of the assault of a spec ed child at a bus stop last year, resluting in the arrest of two Hale students. And, Hale has had their share of gang issues too. I also noticed, their expulsion rate has jumped significantly in the last couple of years. Perhaps, Marnie Campbell is cracking down?

I want to know how high schools are dealing with violence WITHIN their walls? Are security guards efficient? Should there be some other measures taken? Parent volunteers to walk the halls? Or stand at the most used bus stops? Or at the restaurants most frequented at lunch time?

In the end, I think SPS really needs very severe consequences and intervention for kids that exhibit violent and/or gang related behaviors. Expulsion, comes to mind. Or, some type of intervention school?

seattle citizen said...

There are a multitude of intervention strategies, and proponents of all.

Very strict: expell right away.
to
Coddle: no interventions except a nice talking to

There are a range of players, it is not just security guards. Staff can (and should) be "on the lookout" and sometimes aren't. ("It's not my job.") Some staff members stand outside their doors, some do not. Leadership helps with this (or not).

Relationship: This is the most effective deterent, but also the most difficult to work with. It requires a very fine balance between severity and care. It requires an ability to read a variety of students. It requires thinking in broad terms about "fairness" - some say that what's fair for johnny might not be fair for suzey, students differ.

OUTSIDE the schools all sorts of things are going on. It's very, very hard to dam these things at the door, keep them out. Expelling students is one tool, but where do those students go? They are still entitled to an education....aren't they?

anonymous said...

Expulsion is the right of a school. If a child exhibits certain, clearly defined behaviors, it is in the schools rights to expel that student. Students can and should lose their rights to attend a school if they are putting the safety of other students or teachers in jeopardy. Period.

seattle citizen said...

True, adhoc, but it is also the right (and law) for anyone under 18 to be in school.

There are various responses to violent and disruptive behavior:

Remediation through various means is preferrable: work with parent/guardians, set expectations/contract, modify instruction or class schedule to facilitate either removing a problem for other classmates or providing a "better" setting for student...Educators, hopefully, are versed in various strategies to avoid escalation - students are children, many unversed in social skills. Schools teach, not just content areas. If all else fails in remediating behavior, these might be used(in no particular order, and each might be used in conjunction with others):

1) suspension - temporary, and subject to due process

2) explusion - longer-term, also subject to due process (also pushes the problem elsewhere, as students can access reentry and then apply to other school: they are legally required to be in school (see Becca Bill)

3) isolate: in-school "detention" room - the ethics of this strategy are questionable.

4) determine through IEP process if disruptive/violent/aberrational behavior is a condition, an issue requiring special ed behavior mod or other such interventions

See SPS rules and regs for areas where there is no "wiggle room," for instance, bringing a gun to school etc

(When W.V. matches my thinking, we are in psync!)

anonymous said...

Seriously Seattle Citizen, a child comes to school with a gun, and "you make a contract with him"? A child assaults a special ed kid at a bus stop and "you work with his parents"? A child pulls a knife on a teacher and "you set expectations". A boy rapes a girl in the restroom and "you modify instruction or class schedule"?

Maybe that happened at Marshall under Mr. Drake's less than watchful eye, but in a traditional high school setting these children are expelled, and if the situation warrants, they are arrested.

Like it or not expulsion is the right of our schools. We may owe these kids an education, but we can deliver it to them in the correction system/jail.

We have to protect our teachers and students from the most violent students. Period.

And, again, Seattle Citizen, we disagree.

seattle citizen said...

Adhoc, PLEASE READ my comment about the SPS policies on various offenses. These are non-negotiable. Of COURSE the crimes you mention fall into these categories (from SPS). No need to flame me like I'm an idiot.

These are also CRIMES, that would likely (or should) be prosecuted, at which time the juvenile detention (not jail, unless the youth is charged as an adult) education would kick in. SPS can't put a child in Juvie, adhoc.

Please don't insult me with your twisted version of what I thought were informative perspectives on the options available to educators. I was trying to describe some ways of dealing with various offenses (not this horror-movie list of crimes you threw back at me, all of which are covered under district policy and are not malleable, and are crimes punishable by law)

You may disagree with me all you'd like, but that last post is insulting and degrading...yourself.

seattle citizen said...

I owe adhoc an apology: in the beginning of my post, I wrote
"There are various responses to violent and disruptive behavior..."

I meant that there were responses to disruptive behavior, or to behavior that was not physically violent or a crime.

I could see how he (or others) would read that these responses I conjectured might apply to actual physical violence; I erred when I wrote that.

Sorry, Adhoc, I can see where you were coming from, though I still feel your response was inflammatory...

seattle citizen said...

What IS violent behavior, and how should it be dealt with in public schools?

discuss.

anonymous said...

Seattle Citizen my previous posts were in reference to violent behavior, not disruptive behavior. I mentioned the assault at Hale, gang violence, and behavior that would compromise the safety of students or teachers. That is what I was speaking to.

I agree with you that that there are many different strategies for dealing with "disruptive" behaviors. Many of the ones that you listed were more than appropriate for these types of issues. And, I believe our schools (or at least the schools that my kids have attended) have utilized many of your suggestions.

Josh Hayes said...

I'm not sure how much I'm at liberty to say, but as an example we had a difficult kid at AS1 this year. There were numerous incidents of bullying, involving punches, kicks, throwing kids into walls, and so on, as well as "everybody knows he deals drugs, Dad" from my kids.

One would think that after a handful of violent assaults, he'd have been tossed, but apparently the rules about expulsions involve a whole series of steps which have to be taken before that fateful day. We worked all the way through them, and the whole process took about a month. A month, while this kid was STILL in school, STILL knocking people around. It seemed absurd at the time, and still does.

I can't imagine how much more difficult it would be to have to deal with gangs of such sociopaths. Yeesh.

And I don't think, as the WV does, it's because of "myoldys".

anonymous said...

My older son goes to Kellogg a Shoreline MS. They got a transfer student mid year this year who told everyone on his first day of school that he was a Cryp (sp?). On his first day of school he assaulted a child, and they found a knife in his locker. On the second day of school he assaulted another child, and threatened a teacher. On the third day of school he was expelled. He was no longer a threat to my son or anyone else at school, and I felt comforted.

We have had several issues in SPS elementary schools with bullying, pushing/shoving, rock throwing, hitting, biting, kicking, etc., and it has always been dealt with very "gently". I am torn on how to handle this type of behavior in elementary school. You certainly can't allow children to be hit, bitten or kicked. But on the other hand, the kid that is doing the hitting, kicking, biting is a young child that is learning what is and is not appropriate behavior, what the boundaries are, what consequences s/he will face, etc.

At middle school and high school however, I have no tolerance. These adolescents are physically big, and a fight can result in severe injury. Violence can reach a whole new level with weapons, drugs, sexual aggression, etc. These are not young children that are "learning" right from wrong - they know right from wrong and are choosing wrong (violence). They should not be allowed to jeopardize the safety of the other children or staff at school and should be expelled. And if their behavior constitutes assault, or any other illegal activity the police can get involved.

seattle citizen said...

Here's the governing document for school discipline:
(Students Rights and Responsibilities)

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/discipline/SRR-English.pdf

ScootCoot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ScootCoot said...

One of the things about "school safety" all parents should be concerned about is the lack of enforcement of the "key issuing" (and "building use") policy of the Seattle School District - the lax attitude about this policy can lead to illegal entry into school buildings before AND after hours...

Remember the pedophile incident that happened at Broadview-Thomson...? Part of that problem was a result of a lack of enforcement of the "key issuing" (and "building use") policy....

The "key issuing" policy states that NO teacher is to be issued an inside or outside master key... The only key(s) a teacher is issued is one for their classroom, and in some circumstances, a key for a locked lavatory (adult) and copy machine workrooms... (The most egregious part is that a lot of teachers think it is their "right" to keep "their" keys through the summer - the policy states the keys are to be RETURNED at the end of the school year and that keys are NOT to be duplicated without District authorization)

The ONLY time a master key would be issued to a teacher would be AFTER the application for such a key is APPROVED, not only by the principal, but "downtown" as well...

There have been several meetings with "administration" about this issue, but to date the "key issuing" (and building use) policy is not being followed, as it is currently written, and the "meetings" have not created a SOLID and ENFORCEABLE "key issuing" (or "building use") policy...

As parents of school aged children, you should be VERY CONCERNED about WHO has an inside/outside master key at your child's school...

And, when a building has to be re-keyed because a master key "goes missing", that is NOT where you want YOUR tax dollars going...

It would behoove the School District to look at investing in electronic locks at ALL schools - this would track who enters the building after hours and on the weekends... The initial expense would be large, but it would be a good investment in the safety and security of YOUR children and the buildings as well...