Community college violence raise fears

A wave of senseless violence at community college campuses is raising fears. An 18-year-old student has been charged with wounding two women at a branch campus in a shopping mall near Virginia Tech, the site of mass killings in 2007. Students say the gunmen tried to lure them out of hiding by pretending to be the police, but nobody believed him.

Several community colleges across the nation have been the scene of gun and knife attacks in recent months.

‘Restorative justice’ vs. suspension

Instead of suspending misbehaving students, schools are trying “restorative justice” programs, reports the New York Times. At Oakland’s Ralph Bunche High School, an alternative school for students who’ve been in trouble,  coordinator Eric Butler tries to teach students to defuse conflict, “come up with meaningful reparations for their wrongdoing” and develop empathy with others.

Even before her father’s arrest on a charge of shooting at a car, Mercedes was prone to anger. “When I get angry, I blank out,” she said. She listed some reasons on a white board — the names of friends and classmates who lost their lives to Oakland’s escalating violence. Among them was Kiante Campbell, a senior shot and killed during a downtown arts festival in February. His photocopied image was plastered around Mr. Butler’s room, along with white roses left from a restorative “grief circle.”

. . . “A lot of these young people don’t have adults to cry to,” said Be-Naiah Williams, an after-school coordinator at Bunche whose 21-year-old brother was gunned down two years ago in a nightclub. “So whatever emotion they feel, they go do.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office is investigating Oakland’s high suspension and expulsion rates. African-American boys make up 17 percent of the district’s enrollment but 42 percent of all suspensions. (It would be more useful to look at their percentage of male enrollment vs. male suspensions.) Many disciplinary actions were for “defiance,” such as cursing at a teacher, rather than violence, notes the Times.

Even advocates of restorative justice admit it doesn’t work for all students. Programs vary across the country. Some schools are reducing suspensions by putting students on “administrative leave,” reports the Times. ”
Restorative justice can mean formal mediation and reparation or more spontaneous discussions.

A recent circle at Bunche for Jeffrey, who was on the verge of expulsion for habitual vandalism, included an Oakland police officer, and the conversation turned to the probability that Jeffrey would wind up incarcerated or on the streets. The student had told Mr. Butler that he was being pressured to join a gang.

“Cat, you got five people right now invested in your well-being,” Mr. Butler told him. “This is a matter of life or death.” Jeffrey agreed to go to Mr. Butler’s classroom every day at third period to do his schoolwork.

Butler’s sister was murdered by her boyfriend, he told Bunche students. When the boyfriend’s mother knocked on his door to ask forgiveness, “The want for revenge in my stomach lifted.”

Sending disruptive, defiant and violent students to an alternative school that focuses on teaching them to get along with others and build self-control sounds like a good idea to me. I’m sure it helps their former teachers and classmates. I hope it helps them.

In New York City, schools are sending students to the emergency room for behavioral outbursts, charges public advocate Bill de Blasio, who’s suing the city for data on 911 calls.

Dodgeball banned as ‘human target’ game

Due to concerns about bullying, dodgeball and other “human-target games” are now banned in Windham, New Hampshire schools, reports the Eagle-Tribune.

“We spend a lot of time making sure our kids are violence free,” Windham superintendent Dr. Henry LaBranche said. “Here we have games where we use children as targets. That seems to be counter to what we are trying to accomplish with our anti-bullying campaign.”

The banned “human target” games include prison ball, slaughter, bombardment and others.

Dodgeball is “an elimination game,” said Andrew Mead, program manager of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. “Games like dodgeball and tag don’t keep kids involved and physically active. They objectify slower students who don’t catch as well.”

I always hated dodgeball (though I was OK with bombardment). But don’t all games objectify students who are slow, clumsy, etc.?

Two school board members said some human-target games have inappropriate names, reports Ed Week. They probably were thinking of  “slaughter,” which was popular at Windham Middle School.

Video-game lobby aims ads at parents

Worried about post-Newtown censorship, the video game lobby will run ads aimed at parents that encourage them to use existing parental controls, reports Roll Call.

Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has introduced a bill calling for a study to examine whether violent video games lead to real-world violence.

The industry and its lobby, the Entertainment Software Association, maintain its products do not cause shooting sprees or other violent crimes. But it’s been on the defensive since the National Rifle Association, in opposing proposed gun safety measures, pegged violent video games as a culprit in such mass murders.

Video games have carried ratings since 1994. An  “M” rating “denotes content generally suitable for ages 17 and up that may contain intense violence, blood, gore, sexual content and/or strong language.”

Students disarm gunman, get suspended

Three football players who took a loaded gun from an angry teammate on a high school bus were suspended for three days, reports WFTX-TV in Fort Myers, Florida.

After a quarrel, a 15-year-old pulled out a revolver, aimed at another boy on the activities bus and said he’d shoot him, witnesses told police. Three boys tackled the gunmen and wrestled away the gun, which police say was loaded. The heroes were given an “emergency suspension” for being part of an “incident” where a weapon was present.

One of the suspended students described wrestling away the .22 caliber RG-14 Revolver.

“I think he was really going to shoot him right then and there,” the student said. “Not taking no pity.”
. . . “It’s dumb,” he said. “How they going to suspend me for doing the right thing?”

This 16-year-old knows the right thing — take action to save lives — and the dumb thing — punish the kids who prevented a shooting. Why don’t Cypress Hill High School administrators know the difference between right and dumb?

The 15-year-old gunman was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm on school property and assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill.  So they’re going easy on the kid who pulled the gun and hard on the kids who stopped him.

 

‘Blackboard Wars’ in New Orleans


Blackboard Wars, a six-part documentary on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network looks at the struggle to turn around New Orleans’ John McDonogh High School, which has been known for low performance, high dropout rates and violence. The Recovery School District consider closing the school, but instead gave control to Future is Now (FIN) Schools, a charter group run by Steve Barr, Green Dot‘s founder, who worked on the turnaround of Locke High in Los Angeles. Dr. Marvin Thompson took over as principal and  hired a new staff.

Some community members oppose turning “John Mc” over to “outsiders,” writes Dave Walker in a Times-Picayune review. Others complain the documentary too harsh.

The final minute of the premiere is a preview of the season to come. A student shooting. More fighting. More heat from community activists. Sobbing teachers. Future Is Now CEO Steve Barr saying, “Teachers are just getting their asses kicked.”

“I know what y’all are capable of,” Thompson says at a student assembly at the end of the premiere’s season-preview segment. “The question is, do you?”

The first episode aired Feb. 16 on OWN.

Yesterday, a teenager was shot at a bus stop near the school after a fight broke out between students.

 

Study: TV can teach empathy to preschoolers

When 3- to 5-year-olds watch less violence on TV and more shows featuring cooperation and friendship, they’re less aggressive toward other children, concludes a study published in Pediatrics.

One group of parents received guides highlighting positive TV shows for children and newsletters encouraging them to watch with their kids and discuss  the best ways to deal with conflict. Researchers called monthly to help parents set television-watching goals for their preschoolers.

The control group got dietary advice, but no guidance on TV watching.

After six months, parents in the group receiving advice about television-watching said their children were somewhat less aggressive with others, compared with those in the control group. The children who watched less violent shows also scored higher on measures of social competence, a difference that persisted after one year.

Low-income boys showed the most improvement.

“It’s not just about turning off the TV; it’s about changing the channel,” said Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, the lead author of the study and a University of Washington pediatrics professor.

Preschoolers average 4.1 hours of television and other screen time daily, according to a 2011 study.

“Law enforcement sources” believe Adam Lanza was motivated to kill Newtown’s children by “violent video games“and his desire to outkill Andres Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, reports CBS.  “Call of Duty” was his favorite.

High school in a war zone

President Obama condemned the wave of violence in Chicago in a speech at Hyde Park Career Academy. He said “the solution is not only more gun laws, but community intervention and economic opportunity in impoverished neighborhoods.” A few hours later, the sister of a student sitting behind Obama on the stage, was shot and killed in a North Chicago alley. Janay Mcfarlane, 18, had attended Hyde Park.

Last school year, 29 current and recent students at Chicago’s Harper High were shot; eight died. This American Life looks at the violence that surrounds the high school. More than 15 gangs operate in Harper’s attendance area, reports Linda Lutton. “Boys are nearly always assigned a gang affiliation, whether they want it or not, based on where they live,” says Lutton. Many gangs don’t sell drugs. They shoot each other over “girls, ‘he said-she said’ stuff, money owed, a fistfight.”

In one story, staff and students learn at a Homecoming pep rally that a recent student was just shot a few blocks away. Principal Leonetta Sanders struggles to decide if she’s going to hold two events – the football game and the dance – while everyone’s worried about retaliation.

When a boy is tall enough — he has “hard legs” — he’s a target says a gang member in the second episode.

Harper High’s “After Action Review” team — the principal, social workers, the football coach and others — tries to contain the damage after each incident, reports Slate. Chicago school officials picked up the AAR idea on a visit to Fort Leavenworth to study military training.

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.

Student suspended for Sandy Hook poem

A San Francisco high school senior was suspended — and could be expelled — for writing a poem about the Sandy Hook massacre. “I know why he pulled the trigger,” wrote Courtni Webb, 17, in a notebook. She thinks gunman Adam Lanza felt isolated and unloved.

Webb goes to the Life Learning Academy, a small charter school for “troubled” students, including those with arrest records. It has a “zero tolerance” policy against violence, which school administrators say the poem violated. A letter to Courtni’s mother said the poem “contained deeply concerning, and threatening language.”

Here’s part of the poem:

They wanna hold me back
I run but still they still attack
My innocence, I won’t get back
I used to smile
They took my kindness for weakness
The silence the world will never get
I understand the killing in Conecticut
I know why he pulled the trigger
The government is a shame
Society never wants to take the blame
Society puts these thoughts in our head
Misery loves company
If I can’t be loved no one can

Writing about violence isn’t the same as wanting to commit violence, says Courtni.

The poem doesn’t read like a threat to me.