I Was Thinking, What Would I Do?
Security is a huge issue at both dances and sports activities (mainly basketball and football games). There are major costs to security (both SPS security AND SPD are usually present which tells you a lot about how far we have come from having just parents chaperone). The size of the dance is always limited. I have never heard of a high school in Seattle (well, maybe Nova or Center) that had an all-school dance. Meaning, anyone in the school could buy a ticket but there were a limit to the number of tickets sold. There would never be a 1600 ticket dance at Roosevelt or Garfield. You could not afford the security and I don't think any administrator in their right mind would allow it.
Which brings me to the situation at Richmond High School north of Oakland. Here is what happened from Contra Costa News:
"Police say the victim left the dance about 9:30 p.m. and walked north on 23rd Street, intending to phone her father for a ride home. But before she did, a classmate called to her from behind a chain-link fence that separates a campus courtyard from the street.
"Her friend called to her, then hopped the fence and escorted her" up Emeric Avenue to a low gate that led into a campus parking lot, Lt. Mark Gagan said.
They joined a group of teens and young adults hanging out and drinking in the poorly lit courtyard.
The victim drank a large amount of brandy in a short period of time while socializing, police said, then collapsed. Someone dragged her to a bench, where several people stripped her, beat her, stole her jewelry and other belongings, and raped her.
The sexual assault continued for about two hours, detectives estimate, with several young men and boys taking part, possibly including some who arrived after the attack began, as word spread.
News of the ongoing rape eventually reached Raul Rubio from passers-by, as he stood on a corner with friends about a block from campus. After verifying the claim, he went to his girlfriend's nearby home, and she called 911."
Five men/boys ranging in age from 21-15 have been arrested. Some of the victim's personal belongings such as her cell phone and jewelry were found with one suspect.
Students at the school are rightfully angry. One, because despite 4 officers and security officers, no one was patrolling the grounds. Two, the school has no security cameras which would have been some kind of deterrent from this action. Three, of course, they are depressed that this horrible thing happened to a student at their school which is now tarred as a pretty bad place. It is demoralizing for everyone at the school.
But what do you say to kids about something like this? As an administrator or teacher, you look out in the halls on Monday and think, "Who saw this happening? Who knew this was happening and watched? Who knew this was happening and walked away and did nothing? Is it a snitch mentality - if I tell, I'll get in trouble?"
How does a school recover from this? It's not like one student shot another and you can say that they had a beef between them. Adults at the school let these students down. Students let each other down. The basic trust of humanity in believing that if something horrible is happening to another human being that you will help wasn't there. That these criminals could be doing this for 2 hours and no adult intervened and no student called 911 is very shocking and troubling.
I'm not even sure what I, as an adult, would say to the kids at this school. They weren't all there at the dance and those who did attend didn't all know this was happening; the blame for this culture isn't on the majority of students. But figuring out how to help them keep their heads up while trying to solve the dilemma of how a mob mentality got going and was able to stay active for over two hours and how you get these kids to believe that adults will protect them, that is a big task.
I'm not saying dances are a bad idea or that kids will get assaulted or raped if they go to a dance. Of course not. However, a large number of kids all in one place can be a highly charged situation and that's why school officials need to really use caution. This isn't like the kids in West Side Story or Footloose having a dance-off.
(Please note: as far as I know, all SPS high schools require a ticket and ID to get in. I know for sure at Roosevelt - and likely all other high schools - students are also checked for the presence of alcohol or drugs.)