I am a realist and understand that tragedies occur in our nation’s schools because students are bringing guns and other weapons in through the building doors. I also understand that students, living in the ‘ghettoes of our cities, also bring guns, knives and other weapons into their learning environments, too. One point to be made and contextualized is this: The children who have brought deadly weapons to school, only to unleash their power onto unsuspecting staff, children, and even their parents….have not been students who live in poverty, or children whose skin color is of a darker hue. Incidents like these, sadly enough have been committed by children who attend schools without the presence of metal detectors, or scanning machines at the front door, before being permitted entrance.
In most middle to upper class neighborhood schools, there are no metal detectors that welcome their students to the learning process. What?!!! The parents would raise’holy hell’, pardon the expression. They would be in such an uproar and raise their outraged voices in opposition, and question the sanity of the ‘fool’ who decided that was a good strategy for safety. How could we come to believe that placing metal detectors in poorer community schools, would be a wonderful ‘deterrant’ to crime? Fear that staff would be hurt…get shot…stabbed? Well, I am not a proponent of violence, but that would be an idea to consider. Well, targeting only the genius[es] who made that poor decision.
If parental outrage alone becomes the most important determinant in deciding the fate of these ‘criminal-minded’ installations in their schools, then parents in low-income, high crime areas, regardless of location or race, should wield the same influence. These parents should be allowed to weigh in on whether they think that metal detectors are the solution to crime and behavior or discipline problems, too.
Now that I am thinking about crime, even in areas notorious for youth involved gang activity, most weaponry tends to be used AFTER- school dismissal. Drive-by shoorings aren’t happening during school hours while rival gang members are learning. Even fist fights tend to occur after school. Does the phrase,”I’ll see you at 3:00pm sound familiar to you? After school is when most violence takes place as it pertain to school-age children, anyway. So, are the parents and caregivers of the students whose school buildings adorn scanning devices, speaking out against the installation, or are they talking but no one listens to them? It seems that these decisions are not made at the community level, but from an office with cushioned leathe seats and far removed from the community affected. Is that really all that we can come up with?
So many black kids are approached, questioned and frisked by police officers every day;some on their way to or from school. This is also in their community where schools are like reminders that they ARE expected to disrupt, and incite and partake in violent behaviors. Thus, they can also expect to end up in jail, the prison system, and travel along that pipeline. They are being conditioned to internalize their own self-hatred, while filled with confusion from being told that they have great potential, if only they studied and worked hard in school. But they also receive the message that says they can’t be expected to change from survival mode in their community and transform into engaged and well behaved high performers in class.
We are telling these children just how much we believe that they cannot rise above their circumstances, and that their circumstances don’t have to define their destiny. We are not telling them and showing them that we care, recognize their present circumstances, acknowledge to them that they are not responsible for their circumstances, either. How can we treat them as though they are responsible for their present reality. They can’t even be held responsible for themselves; they can’t be relied upon to complete nightly homework assignments. Yet, as adults in the room, we yell at them when they come to class without it, or pencils and paper to complete their assignments in the first place.
If it’s behavior that brings such concern and creates or re-creates behaviors or attitudes from the community or home that’s played out in school, then work on changing those behaviors. Don’t expect an overnight attitude adjustment. That type of change happens only in jail or prison, and if we don’t intervene, it will emerge as angerMoreover, if we don’t intervene, the anger will spill out and get redirected, displaced and may jeopardize the safety of the environment or others sharing that same space.
What do we do to prevent violence and an influx of guns flooding our schools? First, we start by establishing meaningful relationships with students, their families, and the community in which they live and learn and play and survive. Find the root of the problems, concerns, violence, gang activity, chronic absences, first. Get to know your students, especially the children who live in neighborhoods very different from your/our own. Establish a relationship with the people of the cmmunity-the families, visit the stores, talk to them. Let me add this: You cannot and will not get acquainted at a meaningful level from emails, letters or phone calls. Literacy levels may be low, but some things do not need to be read aloud to form an impression of sincerity. Anyone can do these things…robo-calls… But authenticity begins with an authentic desire to connect, relate and partner with your stakeholders. Since parents are critical, and pivotal to behavior attendance, and all things conducive to learning at home and school, that’s where we place targeted emphasis. Then, we gain insight into their world, and the world that your students faces when not in class. If you view the problems as ‘theirs’, not ours, then the solutions are best in their hands too.
What it will take for…..?
What do you need to…..?
What do you wish us to address or do to promote change in the form of….?
” What can WE do together to create the change necessary to facilitate student achievement, health and wellness, for your child and yourself,-the family unit?
Work with them, not for them.
Talk with them, not at them
Most important listen to them speak to you, when they speak, how they speak, and should you not understand anything please ask questions to clarify. Respect, reciprocal, and linguistic/culturally responsive dialogues. That’s a more effective start towards school-pupil and parent partnerships…. in school, at home and in the community. It must be consistent, continuous and must be a collective effort.
Why should black children or hispanic children be any different? Crimes occur, and they occur much too frequently, but how many times have we ever heard about a black kid who sneaked an AK-47 into their school, and began shooting off rounds? What about re-loading and continuing to injure and kill all those within ear or eye-shot? I can not honestly recall one such major incident.
Honesty is the keyword here, remember? Think about how many violent incidents in schools that resulted in any number larger than one fatality, in which the perpetrator was a student from the ‘block’, the ‘hood’, or any neighborhood in America? Fortunately, or not so fortunately, terms like mass murder, mass shootings, killing spree, and going ‘postal’ or on a ‘rampage’ do not typically describe a person of color, and definitely not an adolescent.
Then, why are we so insistent upon the notion that having these children pass through these devices will prevent such or any tragedies at school? The idea of placing metal detectors within our public schools is a very depressing, discouraging and self-fulfilling prophecy for the school to prison pipeline. It sends a very bad message to all within the school community-staff, families, and the students themselves. It speaks poorly to the community that exists outside of the school building. It perpetuates any existing inequalities and disparities that permeate society. It similarly reinforces negative stereotypes and what I term, immaculate perceptions, that are descriptive of implicit, unconscious biases about a population. Parent engagement and active involvement, partnering, is severely impacted, also.
The school is supposed to be a safe and supportive environment, which may mean that they may be the only safe haven for learning students should be able to count on…a place of learning and achievement, where success and positive behavior, character and respectful appreciation of diversity exists at high levels of expectations. The climate and culture of the school, as the agreed upon best pathway to future life success, should not look or even feel as though the students, especially the ‘at-risk’ youth, are gaining entrance into a courthouse, with officers present to keep the peace. After all, the courthouse atmosphere is one where tempers can be expected to flare, and violence may erupt. Is that what we are communicating to them, as well?
Greatly influenced by what we do in school, as educators, no student’s future should entail entering a courthouse lest they be members of the legal profession.
Poorer students, the ones living in poverty, tend to also live in high crime areas. The idea of attending school is supposed to be seen as their ticket up and out of poverty. School is supposed to offer a glimpse into the greater society, broaden their worldviews, contribute to their dreams for life success, help them discover their unique gifts, promote their inherent drive to pursue excellence in order to realize their potential.
What kind of message do you think it sends to children whose lives are almost certain to involve the courts system, either family, housing or criminal courts, at least once in their lifetime? That’s what the stats tell us. Many of us have NEVER seen the inside of any of these governmental controlled-agencies. Yet, many of the most at risk children have this experience, with their parents or other family, up close and personal, before adulthood. Although there should be no shame or stigma attached to these experiences, it is yet to thought of as a pleasant experience for the families involved.
And, that is before we factor the influence of school climate, implicit bias, teacher competence, under-matching, or over-representation of black and brown children’s special education program placements.
The lives of so many youth, in their home and immediate community, already places them at extreme risk for academic failure counter-productive to their life success. On practically a daily basis they face so many challenges and obstacles and distractions that may all present themselves simultaneously….before arriving at school. So, I ask…Why must we compound the pressures and competing forces that tug at these children, by creating or erecting a new barrier to learning.
The children in the more wealthy community schools don’t have to be subjected to daily searches before allowed to enter the building to learn. Behavior problems, threats of violence, and gun violence seems to prevail as coping mechanisms in their settings, on a mass scale. Why aren’t their less wealthy counterparts, largely ‘minority’, a euphemism for African American or individuals of African descent, PRESUMED INNOCENT FIRST? Instead, we already have perceived them guilty before innocent. Are we not perpetuating stereotypes, feeding into implicit bias, and resembling a separate but unequal ‘Pygmalion’ in the classroom?
What must they think that we think of them? And, more importantly, what will they internalize, consider normal treatment, and incorporate into their own self image? C’mon! And, don’t forget to take it home, as agents of change while making changes..one family and one student at a time! The message will spread. Let it be a positive one. Nobody will bite your head off, as long as you establish yourself as an authentic respected educator, not just respectable. That we can all do-be respectable, but more than that we want to give respect and likewise receive. Where there’s a will, three’s a way to teach without resembling a penal institution or correctional facility. It’s a school and we educate! No?