Do cops make schools safe?

Do police officers make your schools safer? Los Angeles students don’t think so, reports Colorlines.

South Dakota has passed a law allowing teachers to carry guns in school.

College assesses mental health threats

At a Dallas community college, a team of volunteers assesses whether troubled students need counseling or psychiatric treatment. Most of those referred don’t turn out to be threats, but many could use some help.

7-year-old suspended for pastry pistol

At a Maryland elementary school, a 7-year-old boy was suspended for two days for nibbling a pastry into the shape of a gun at snack time. Joshua claims he was trying to make a mountain. The teacher disagreed.

No one was threatened or harmed by the pastry, the boy’s father said. I guess that means he didn’t point his Pop-Tart and say “bang.”

A Google image search for “poptart gun” turned up this image, reports Reason‘s Hit & Run. Apparently, Joshua isn’t the only boy with a taste for weaponry. Or mountains.

 

Duncan: AmeriCorps will help failing schools

AmeriCorps volunteers will help raise graduation rates at the nation’s worst schools, said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. With $15 million in federal funding, the School Turnaround AmeriCorps will send 650 members into 60 schools.

Duncan said AmeriCorps members will improve school safety, attendance and discipline, help students improve their reading and math skills and increase college enrollment by helping students and their parents apply for financial aid.

AmeriCorps members must be 18 to 24 years old. They don’t have to be high school graduates, much less college graduates. They get a subsistence wage, plus college aid or help paying student loans. It’s hard to believe they’ll be effective tutors, though perhaps they could patrol the halls and restrooms.

High school dropouts are costing some $1.8 billion in lost tax revenue every year, estimates a new report, which foresees a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.

It’s not that simple, education economist Henry Levin tells the Huffington Post. “It’s like saying, if my 3-foot-tall child were 6 feet tall, my child would be able to do all sorts of things.”

Or, as they used to say: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Charter discipline: Too strict?

Charter schools in some cities are being pushed to relax strict discipline policies, reports Ed Week.

Charters expel students at the same rate as traditional public schools and have lower suspension rates, according to an Ed Week analysis of 2009-10 federal data. “But in a few urban districts where high discipline rates at charter schools have drawn scrutiny, school officials have recently taken steps aimed at ensuring that students in both charter and other public schools are treated fairly,” reports Ed Week. 

New Orleans’ Recovery School District centralized admissions, transfer and expulsion for its charter and non-charter schools last year.

“Many parents choose charters because they offer safe havens” from violence and disorder, say charter supporters.

In A Tale of Two Students, Ed Week looks at the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which runs 12 schools in Chicago.

. . . its mission is to “prepare low-income students with the scholarship, discipline, and honor necessary to succeed in college and lead exemplary lives, and serve as a catalyst for education reform in Chicago.”

Its academic record is impressive: Noble students’ average ACT score, 20.7, is more than 3 points higher than the average score for Chicago’s regular public schools.

Discipline is strict. Ronda Coleman, whose daughter Janell, 17, is a Noble senior, says “the rules create a safe environment, and that parents and students are well aware of what they’re signing up for.”

Michael Milkie, the superintendent and a co-founder of the Noble charter school system, said he and his wife were inspired to create a school with a stricter code of conduct after teaching in the Chicago school system.

“One of the things we looked to implement right away was a structured, strong discipline code that teaches students proper behavior and allows teachers to teach and students to learn,” Mr. Milkie said. At Noble, students receive demerits for certain offenses, including dress-code violations or possessing a permanent marker. Racking up four demerits means serving detention for three hours on Friday and paying a $5 fee.

“Students get an average of 12 detentions freshman year, and only two by senior year,” said Milkie.

Donna Moore thinks discipline is too rigid. Her son, Joshua, 17, spent two years as a freshman at Gary Comer High School, a Noble charter school, drawing hundreds of detentions and dozens of suspensions. He now attends an alternative high school.

Teacher’s got a gun

Arming educators is a reality in some places and under serious consideration in others, reports Education Week.

 In Utah, school employees have been able to carry concealed weapons onto campus for about a decade—without telling a soul—and at least four Texas school districts are known to have granted select employees permission to take concealed weapons to school.

A rural Texas district, Southland is 15 miles from the nearest law-enforcement agencies, says Superintendent Toby Miller. Deciding “we are the first responders,”  Southland is training some of its employees to carry guns.

The armed employees, a small subset of the district’s 32-member staff, went through mental-health screenings and trained for their concealed-weapons licenses together. The training will be ongoing, he said, as long as Southland employees carry weapons. And the guns fire so-called frangible ammunition, which breaks into small pieces on contact, preventing ricochet.

Armed staffers must carry their weapon at all times in a concealed holster: Guns cannot be carried in a purse or locked in a desk.

Michael S. Dorn, who runs the nonprofit Safe Havens International, worries about a new attitude among school employees since the Newtown shootings: “Now, I’m supposed to die” to defend students.

Dorn, a former school police chief, thinks too many teachers and administrators have switched to attack mode. “We’re seeing so many [school employees] saying they would attack” someone, he said, “whether it’s two parents coming into the office arguing over a custody issue or people pulling a handgun but not actually shooting anybody.”

A few weeks ago, a school principal told me she’s been thinking about whether she’d give her life to protect her students from a gunman as the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary did. Another woman said. “I’d want a gun.”

Other schools are taking a different tack: Marietta, Georgia public schools are installing “panic buttons” that call 911.  At an Alabama school, teachers and staff wear panic buttons around their necks that trigger a school lockdown.

High school coach shoots armed teens

A Detroit high school coach shot two teens who attacked him as he was walking two female basketball players to their cars after dark, reports WXYZ. He killed one and wounded the other.

One attacker pulled a gun and grabbed the 70-year-old man by his chain necklace, the coach told police. He pulled his gun and shot both. A reserve police officer, the coach has a concealed pistol license.

Both attackers had attended the high school; one had been expelled recently, reports WXYZ.

Baltimore: Cut suspensions, get a bonus

The “Baltimore school system is paying bonuses to teachers and administrators at struggling schools that reduce suspensions for non-violent offenses, drawing criticism from union leaders who say the program could provide a financial incentive to ignore problems and jeopardize school safety,” reports the Baltimore Sun. Teachers also can earn more if their schools reduce truancy and absenteeism.

Marietta English, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, said she fears that the bonuses could exacerbate the problem of educators feeling pressure to keep suspension numbers down, sometimes at the expense of maintaining order in the classroom.

“I’m worried about the safety of our teachers,” English said. “When you offer a bonus for something like that, you are putting a price on what’s going to happen around safety in a school.”

So far, 72 teachers and assistant principals have been given bonuses of $5,000 to $9,500; two principals received  $3,000 each. Teachers must have satisfactory evaluations and attendance rates to qualify for a bonus.

Baltimore is using $695,000 in federal Race to the Top funds to pay for the program.

5-year-old suspended for bubble shooting ‘threat’

5-year-old kindergarten girl was suspended for “terroristic threats” for saying she’d shoot a friend and herself with a pink Hello Kitty bubble gun. The Pennsylvania girl, who didn’t bring the bubble shooter to school, made the comment while waiting for the school bus. She was questioned for three hours by school officials without her mother’s knowledge.

After a psychologist confirmed she isn’t a would-be terrorist, the 10-day suspension was reduced to two days for “a threat to harm others.” The Hello Kitty “gun” shoots soap bubbles, so potentially she could have gotten her friend wet.

Safe or stupid?

Since the horror of the Sandy Hook shootings, Americans are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stupidity Syndrome, writes Lenore Skenazy on CNN.

Folks in the throes of PTSS are so traumatized by a tragic event that they immediately demand something – ANYTHING – be done to prevent it from ever occurring again. Even if the chances of it happening are one in a million. Even if the “preventative measures” proposed are wacky, wasteful, ridiculous – or worse.

One of her readers at Free-Range Kids reported that the local school created a new rule for its first-grade Christmas concert:  Parents had to hand in their car keys to the office before entering the auditorium.

Because guns don’t kill people … people with car keys kill people?

Another reader said a day care center has asked parents to slam the door on other parents entering behind them, so that everyone has to enter the security code.

Expect a fellow parent to hold the door open for you just because you’re standing there with a baby in one arm and a briefcase in the other? No way! This is a safe community, and a safe community treats all people, even the ones cradling their own children, as potential psycho-killers!

It’s the mindset that created the TSA. Treat everyone like a homicidal maniac. And never ever use your common sense.

A jogger running by a Kentucky school triggered a lockdown. “Seriously…six or seven different police and fire departments, including ambulances, EMS teams, and K9 units were called out, surrounding neighborhoods were searched, the school was put on lockdown, and everyone just shrugs it off as an unplanned practice drill?”