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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

School Days: Guns, and Knives, and Rape, Oh My.

I've had the unpleasant duty of monitoring kids on a school bus during a field trip, and it may be the stale smell, the bumpy seat belt-less ride, or the excitement of getting passing trucks to blast their horns, but these brats get a little horny. I've had to chastise two kids who barely even spoke to each other before from getting a little too friendly now that they were seated next to each other. I guess it's a good thing they're all usually so very loud, because it was their sudden drop in volume that clued me in. Despite being prone to motion sickness, I did my best to make sure there was absolutely no hanky-panky or bullying on MY watch, thank you very much.

Apparently, that's too difficult for people who are paid to be bus monitors in New York City. Little kids are being raped on the backs of buses and apparently a large number of these substantiated complaints have also gone missing. When did schools stop caring about the safety of kids?

My own place of work has documented that 13 doors are left unlocked for most of each day through which any angry parent, enraged child, or random loony could walk in off the street, guns blazing. I also know damn well that they won't do a thing until something actually happens. I'm sure they'll put on a great show of sympathy for the families involved and generate a lot of money for the relatives of the deceased, but God forbid they should preempt something like that even when they've got the facts staring them in the face.

I have to feel a little nervous when I heard that the one armed guy (um, he has two arms, I mean he's packing) in our building is thinking of looking for work elsewhere because he says he knows of things- threats, events, weapons being found- that we teachers have no idea about and HE'S SCARED! Dude! You're the guy with the taser and gun!

There's little I despise more than people who bitch about a system then don't offer a solution, so that's not what I'm trying to do. I know we can't stop the spread of the philosophy of violence from generation to generation but I KNOW we are capable of stopping a lot of this before it even starts. I KNOW teachers are doing their part because I hear of, see, and occasionally assist in many heroic moments where a situation is diffused or a child is dragged off before any more blood can be spilled...

As I was typing the last sentence above, I just got another e-mail that yet another fight has broken out and another kid we teach got beaten up pretty badly.

Something more HAS to be done. Beyond all the basics of better security measures and harsh punishments, right from the start we need to stop creating confident idiots with all ego and no skills and start prioritizing independence. If we have kids who are expected to be more responsible, they will develop more well-founded confidence in their abilities then these dolts who are frustrated by their own limitations and have a false sense of confidence built up over years of being applauded every time they showed up to school at all, didn't beat the shit out of someone and snored more quietly than usual in class. If we set the expectations higher, they CAN reach them. We just need to abandon our fear of hurting their poor little egos for the sake of fostering a sense of independence and achievement they can be proud of.

I'm not saying this will cure all ills, but it'll sure knock out a few of them. We can't change their home environment, but we can certainly set our school environment to not take this kind of crap. On the other side:

  • Counselors need to teach coping strategies to all age groups since they don't learn this at home.

  • Teachers need to make sure they're doing all they can do to establish the kind of environment where the kids know that they'll get into deep shit if they dare get into a fight and establish a sense of safety in their own rooms. Also, I know of teachers who (either accidentally or purposefully) set kids off and promote an aggressive mood. Those teachers need to stop fueling the fire. (Thankfully, I don't know many of these types of teachers.)

  • Administrators need to stop hiding their heads in the sand until something dreadful happens and only THEN take action.

  • Getting a little vacation from school should not be the consequence of getting into a fight. Community service and then far more serious consequences for repeat offenders should be established. As funny as it would be to try to fine the families of kids who fight, that would only exacerbate things further, I imagine. But damn, think of all the money you'd make for the school at first!

We're not doing enough to make these kids feel safe and it makes me sick to my stomach.

For the teachers who do their part (you know who you are) : well done. You make me proud. But without support from everyone else, you're going to be breaking up fight after fight and risk getting seriously hurt in the process of holding back the tide. We have no idea how many knives are found on students. We only get told about the ones that teachers already know/hear about and so the administration is forced to admit it and not sweep the situations under the rug, which they are so wont to do. I know of plenty of things that they have swept under the rug and it really disappointed me. I was even asked to spill my guts to a news station once, but in fidelity I joined in the cover-up.

I'm going to keep an eye on our armed guy. As soon as he jumps ship, I'm going to look into getting a bulletproof blouse.

UPDATE: Two more fights broke out since I wrote this post. One was bloody enough to close down a hallway.

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