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School Violence: Expert Advice on What Can Be Done

What can parents do to make the situation better? continued...


S. Hoffman: Parents need to be very alert to what their kids are doing. It's not easy -- being a teenager is a time when kids want to push parents away, do their own thing, live their own lives. But parents must find a way to stay involved. They need to know their kids' peers, what they're doing, that they are supervised. They need to be there for their kids and listen. They also need to talk to kids about the issue of violence. Ask their kids: "What would [you] do if a peer was thinking about it? Would you come to me, to someone at your school?" Help kids identify a plan. And talk to the schools -- what are they doing?

What can schools do?

Fink: There are 22 high schools in Philadelphia, and they all have metal detectors. It's the most humiliating thing. Can you imagine kids lining up at 8:30 am in front of metal detector every day? Yet they're not addressing the major problems related to youth violence.


There need to be dialogues between teachers and children about feelings, issues, values -- not Christian values necessarily, just good moral standards. Schools need to address the needs of children with access to the Internet. There's also the problem of kids who just don't get along with their teachers. In many schools, the teacher is always considered to be right, and the student is always wrong. It's a serious problem that needs to be addressed.


I do not believe that schools should be punitive. In the Santana High School incident, they're keeping kids who knew the boy [was talking about committing the assault] out of school. That is excess punishment of innocent people. These kids need attention, love; they need to be put to positive tasks.


Multiple suspensions, truancy -- those are the earliest signs school officials should look for. There should be some assessment of parents' involvement. When parents are antagonistic toward the school, they train their kids to be antagonistic. Those parents are hurtful to the child and school, and it's the child who is hurt in the long run.


L. Hoffman: Schools must have a very strict policy about teasing -- that it is not allowed and that teachers need to have a group discussion about it with the children. Also, teachers should not let themselves get involved when teasing occurs. It's very easy for bystanders to get vicarious gratification in watching others get teased. That's what slapstick comedy is all about. Teachers cannot let that happen. Teachers have to make sure they communicate a value of respect among all the kids. Whenever any teasing does happen, they must deal with it immediately.


Schools need to really listen to kids who communicate a problem and if necessary, refer them for professional evaluation either within or outside the school. These are troubled kids, angry kids; they're not "bad" kids. It's not a group phenomenon.


S. Hoffman: One of most important things schools can do is educate kids about the importance of reporting threats and setting up a system for kids to do that -- an anonymous 800 number. San Diego has a tip number for drugs and violence, and I've heard it's been successful. Also, make sure kids know the importance of reporting.

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