14 thoughts on “More on School Violence”

  1. Before the incident at Jefferson (referred to in the Cap Times article linked in Ruth Robarts’ post), I would never have believed that such attacks could occur, in front of witnesses, with no question about the identities of the assailants, and that the attackers would face no consequences whatsoever–either from the school system or law enforcement. There is no question that the code of conduct needs to be improved. We also need to monitor and hold accountable those responsible for enforcing the code and keeping our children’s schools safe.

  2. Violence in our schools is intolerable, but the extraordinary violence of the American adult population should be seen as the model which our kids are following.
    Nobody, kids included, buy into what others say (or most do not). Why should our kids be different from us?
    I was very surprised when my daughter entered elementary school. I saw and heard administrators and teachers yell and “be tough” with kids (not just be pleasantly firm). That was unacceptable to me, and I made that known. So how should kids act when the “respected” adults and those in immediate authority behave just as inappropriately?
    Over the last couple of years, MMSD has instituted a “guidance” approach to discipline, as opposed to the “punitive” approach of the past. This was long overdue. Of course, it shouldn’t take dictates from the top for administrators and teachers to behave appropriately — that is, model the behavior that we expect of the kids.
    The linked article is an interesting read — primarily because the of the phrase du jour “zero tolerance”. Several parents in the article proclaimed that, but I would bet a day’s wages that many parents and adults who push “zero tolerance” except themselves from being the recipient of such a policy (I’m sure they have a good reason).
    One other point which I will bear in mind. Money or the promise of money always determines what we see.
    Now that there is a push to take the cost of school security out from under the revenue caps, I can guarantee that we will begin to find significant violence and safety issues throughout the school systems, when, just a few months ago, the violence in our schools was almost non-existent and almost all kids felt safe. Gone are those days!
    And depending on your temperment, not the truth, you will or will not believe. And you will rise up to the “challenge” and demand immediate action, and demand the problem be solved once and for all — security cameras in every hall and classroom, a police force patroling the halls — money is no object.
    Of course, learning will suffer. And the truth of misbehavior or violence will be lost. And so will measured approaches.

  3. A “guidance approach” works when you’ve got things pretty much under control. Expelling the few main troublemakers gets rid of 80 percent of the problem, and allows a guidance approach or peer approach to work. Keep the troublemakers in school under the mistaken notion that you can guide them, and you’re headed for real trouble.

  4. Now, with the divine guidance that we all share, it will be trivial to identify the main troublemakers — those for whom using the guidance approach will not work.
    I wonder what color or ethnicity they will be?

  5. You wouldn’t believe the stories that middle school staff tell about violence and agression in the schools every day.
    When I read the article, I don’t hear staff from the MMSD and MSCR and the member of the school board taking the violence seriously.
    For example, the article says the principal assured parents of the safety of their child, and then she was attacked.
    And then Julie Koenke, supervisor of middle and high school programs for MSCR, said “At the end of the evening, the disruptive students were removed from the building. They will be barred from attending the next two or three events, which she said had been an effective deterrent for bad behavior.”
    Why weren’t they removed immediately and barred from all events for the rest of the year, instead of getting a slap on the wrist?
    Johnny Winston, Jr. says the violence cannot be tolerated, but it is, and Johnny didn’t offer any suggestions to curb the violence.
    On top of it all, bullying is common in the Doyle Building, and the board has done nothing about it to my knowledge.

  6. Typically in cases like this, zero tolerance policies will be ratcheted up. Antiquated notions of the reasonable man standard and intent will be ignored by those in charge. Good kids who make a little mistake, an offhand comment, a gesture that makes someone feel uncomfortable, will get hauled in. Principals will call in the police, the kid will get double teamed, suspended for a day or so, get a record, etc….
    All the while, the bad apples, because of their previously labelled special status will go on their merry way.

  7. As I said, when money tells us to find violence, we will.
    The terms “disruptive” and “bad behavior” are not synonyms in my English for “violent”. However, the “bad behavior” were physical fights — that is likely violent behavior. But only “likely”.
    What should the response be? Which of these fights and the bullying are the same as always existed, and which are worse? And how far should it be tolerated? “Zero tolerance”?
    My first school fight was in the second semester of first grade (this was the early 50’s). Over weeks, I was being made fun of for “walking funny”, the result of recent bout with polio. I had enough and we fought and I won. Once I stood up for myself, we became friends.
    Over the years, I was subjected to being called “Jew boy” (my mother was Jewish), and I had several small fights and shoving matches. Antisemitism was rampant in small town USA, and I had my and my mother’s honor to protect. In fact, my mother, who was raised in a tough poor Brooklyn neighborhood, impressed on me to not tolerate being pushed around — I’m sure the Holocaust made an impression on her.
    Sometimes, fighting was the solution. I cannot image a fight being stopped with me and the other kid being brought into a room for a discussion such as “Now Larry, tell Johnny how it made you feel to be told that your mother is a “Christ killer”. Now Johnny, would you want to be treated that way?” What crap!
    I didn’t grow up in an area where kids brought guns, knives, brass knuckles to school, so the fights never escalated beyond a certain point — I think we all had limits on our aggression. But make no mistake about it, there were fights and we didn’t often run to our parents or teachers to help us. We were told to stand up for ourselves.
    When some fights, as happened, seemed to get out of control — by the way, in my day there was a distinction between “appropriate” fights and “out of control” fights — adults (teachers/principal) would intervene, but this was not automatic. I remember seeing teachers watching over an ensuing battle, gauging the activities. He/she would, after some time elapsed, and some shoving or punches thrown, walk calmly up to the participants, declaring the fight over and “get back to school.” The fight would stop and the kids would go back to the classroom.
    Now, many fights I’ve heard about, and discussed with my daughter seem to exceed the level of aggression I grew up with, and would tolerate.
    And perhaps too many kids have no limits on their aggression, and don’t know when to stop. We did, in the 50’s, in Small Farming Town, USA.
    History tells us that it was not the same in other towns and cities during those times.
    Just a perspective.

  8. Perhaps the Code of Conduct should be amended to include not just offenses on MMSD property, but any offense that occurs at any MMSD-related event- including city buses that MMSD tax dollars pay for. This way, any MSCR event is included, as is the bus ride to and from school. Last year one of our middle school students shot a bunch of kids w/ a pellet pistol on a city bus. Had he not been so foolish as to bring the gun onto school grounds in order to hide it, it’s my understanding he would have been allowed to stay in school (he was expelled, but still attends MSCR middle school socials at Warner Park!).
    Last, but not least, a strong principal, who tolerates no BS and calls the cops when teens commit crimes on campus, is KEY.

  9. Obviously a “guidance approach” isn’t working or the violence wouldn’t be escalating in our schools. As a parent volunteer at Jefferson and Memorial I have witnessed many disturbing incidences at both schools. Violent incidences did NOT just start occurring at the schools. I don’t believe that throwing money at the problem is any kind of permanent solution so don’t include me in that group. It begins with the strong leadership of a principal, with the support of his/her superiors, who actually enforces the Code of Conduct and refuses to compromise the safety of his students AND staff, no matter how politically incorrect.

  10. The recently released study entitled “And Justice for Some” is reported here: http://www.madison.com/tct/news/stories/index.php?ntid=114802 and the study itself can be download from http://www.nccd-crc.org/nccd/pubs/2007jan_justice_for_some.pdf.
    It places Wisconsin at the top of states who treat African American kids most discriminatorially. African American kids in Wisconsin are placed into the juvenile justice system for behavor for which white kids are allowed to pass. They are punished for behavior for which white kids get a pass. They become repeat offenders early on, when white kids are left off the hook. And for the same offenses African American kids are given harsher punishments than white kids.
    Violence needs to be handle appropriately and measured and with appropriate respect for students who have committed offenses, as I have reiterated.
    But the chant “politically incorrect” to excuse continued and blatant racism in treatment of African American kids within the Wisconsin Juvenile Justice System is all too transparent.
    What is most interesting also, is Cohen’s seeming echoing and encouragement of such discriminatory practices (I must assume that as he continually rejects my language of “measured and appropriate”).
    The Equity committee on which he served has a policy guideline which reads “Enforce the Code of Conduct uniformly regardless of a student’s race, culture or gender.” That’s good as far as it goes. But, if an equity committee member is seemingly unable to understand these significant equity issues, then the committee, I afraid, was an exercise only to prove “liberal credentials” on paper and nothing more.

  11. Yeah Winkler, I’m a racist, baby!(think in Dick Vitale speech) Can’t you tell by how I type? Read what I wrote and not what you want to infer for the sake of your own arguements. The fact that you can’t even tell that Ann, not myself, posted about political correctness just confirmed my vote.

  12. Well, David:
    1) I never mentioned that you said “politically incorrect” — that was in a separate paragraph from the paragraph referring directly to you by name. Almost anyone, with the exception of you, would realize that the language referred back to the just preceding comment, since I expected others to read the previous comment from Robertson.
    2) I never called anyone racist, neither you or Robertson, as the statement was “blatant racism … within the Wisconsin Juvenile Justice System”. I’m not aware that either you or Robertson have any contact with or authority with said system. Am I wrong?
    I will stand by my assessment of your stated opinion that the “KEY [character of a principal is that he] tolerates no BS and calls the cops when teens commit crimes on campus”, and your rejection of my language “measured and appropriate” does support the current discrimination of kids of color, because the “get tough” approach which you echo, falls most heavily on kids of color, notwithstanding the language of the Equity Committee report.
    I certainly hope your contribution to the Equity Committee showed more care and intelligence than your current comments indicate.

  13. what a crock Larry…enforcement of the Code of Conduct is paramount. Equal enforcement is crucial to avoid discrimination. MMSD policy already states that- it’s getting the staff to adhere to that policy that’s the problem. I don’t care what color a kids skin is, if they violate the code they should be punished appropriately- and equally. If more green kids commit assault, more green kids get suspended, end of story. You stated that you “assumed” I am echoing past discriminatory practices. Don’t make assumptions, Larry.

  14. Im sorry but teachers get in the kids face and they got in mine and they have no right, and i think its stupid how eveyone thinks they arent goin to say anything back!! One day they will but of course the kid will get blamed!

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