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Health & Parenting

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School Violence: Expert Advice on What Can Be Done

What can schools do? continued...

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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