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
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
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.