California High School To Inform Parents When Crimes Occur On Campus.
California’s Mercury News (4/17, Oakley) reports, “Berkeley High School administrators have pledged to start informing parents of assault, theft, robbery and drug dealing at the school following formal complaints made in January and February.” This month, Vice Principal Maggie Heredia-Peltz sent a letter “to the school safety committee,” saying that “the school would notify parent and employees of violent crime via e-mail, it will implement a confidential reporting process for kids who are victims of crime and it will work to bring down incidents of theft at the school.” Berkeley will also “make a better effort to enforce restraining orders concerning people at the school.” Meanwhile, school officials maintain that Berkeley High “has less crime than other urban high schools of similar size.” Still, “parents said they should at least know about it so they can protect their children.”
I read this blurb this morning with mixed emotion-glad administrators were being taken to task, sad that a group of parents had to ask for this transparency, happy there will be some truth to the numbers, sad for the fact the teachers have had to be in some unsavory situation until the parents stepped it up.
Myself and many other teachers KNOW that there are many instances of criminal (and not so criminal behavior – simple bullying) behavior that get ‘buried’ since schools must show statistics. This occurs at public schools and private schools, albeit often for varying/different reasons. While principals are attempting to ‘protect’ the so called innocent victims and make nice, the principals are in effect creating a hostile work place for teachers AND sending the message to the student population that it is okay to behave in manner X ( not much will happen, so being great teenagers, they raise the bar and do something worse).
My question is why would a group of parents have to ask administration to be TRANSPARENT? Doesn’t this seem strange – the very people charged with protecting our most precious asset (children) have been allowed to misrepresent (lie) factual data…Schools can do ‘damage control’ to keep the numbers nice?
The most recent situation I know of is a close friend of mine who teaches HS in the east bay. A student used the N word on her in front of the whole class (she is bi-racial). Even though she asked the student to leave the room, the student resisted. Ultimately the student left. The student was written up and guess what – back in class the next day. There was nothing from administration in any way to indicate to this student or the class or the school that this behavior will not be tolerated. You can guess what started happening after that – the kids had been given a free pass to use the N word, the G word, the R word and a few other choice words, all equally offensive and disruptive to learning, never mind making this teacher feel embarrassed for being part black. Imagine all the other students at the school who get to have these words used on them for surely if it is okay to say it to a teacher, it must be okay to say it to another student.
Another friend of mine, in a slightly more well to do part of the east bay, had a situation where a school supervisor (after school type program) lost a key to the school buildings. Rather than report the missing key (which would have been costly and required the entire school to be rekeyed), this person asked some students to help find the missing key…..oh, the key was found and ultimately used to perpetrat multiple thefts on campus. Did administration inform the staff at the school? No. In fact it was not until a couple computers, purses and ultimately my friends personal LED projector was stolen that the administration told staff-by then the staff had talked to each other and realized something was up. The worst part was that rather than administration expressing to my friend they would like to try to help the teacher out in obtaining another LED which was used regularly in the science classroom to show a variety of media from the computer, they didn’t say anything. The students involved violated the trust of their teachers and made the teachers feel just slightly more defensive and ‘aware’ of behaviors – the administration showed a complete lack of respect to their teachers. I am not even sure if this made the local newspaper as the school didn’t want to broadcast what they had done.
When I taught/long term subbed in Los Angeles (after returning from Peace Corps but waiting to get into grad school and had a 5 month layover of time), I had a knife pulled on me in front of the whole class by an 8th Grader. I do not know how, even today, I had the wherewithall to count to 10 in my head and not react, but I was able to get the student to walk out of the room and go towards the office. Of course this school did not have a functioning phone in the classroom. I ended up sending another student out the opposite direction to run to get some one (school security, etc.) so we could get the kid with the knife safely away from campus - as I watched the one with the knife walking down the hall one way and facing me (walking backwards).
When all of this was reported to the dean and principal, the student was asked to sit in the office at school, was allowed to eat lunch with his classmates and it was not until I INSISTED that a police report be made that anything was done. Because I made the police report, the kid was removed from the school. I was severly chastised by administration for taking it so ‘seriously’ and needing to instigate things by making a police report. No one asked if I wanted to go home for the day, just when I was going back to my classroom. I later found out this same student had assaulted a teacher with a chair which is why he got put in my class – I was the long term sub after 13 other subs). Needless to say, when I was accepted to graduate school, I was eternally grateful – both for being accepted and being ALIVE to attend.
Students are not held accountable in most situations as it would mean the principal/dean actually has to meet with parents and state to parents why the behavior is unacceptable and what has to change. At a regular public school, students get multiple opportunities to do bad things (only severe things lead to actual suspension or expulsion) which range from mentally abusive (bad/threatening language, bullying) to dangerous but not actually something which kills another person (this seems to be the bottom line for expulsion). At a charter school, principals/deans can amp it up a little bit as charter schools are schools of choice, although charter schools can’t amp it up too much for they run three risks (1) declining school enrollment (2) not serving the very students they have promised to educate/rehabilitate (3) make the school seem too difficult so other students will not ‘choose’ to come there – the school is not fun enough. In private schools, principals/heads of school can not afford to lose the tuition so a great deal of things are tolerated and, in fact, many parents ‘donate’ money to the school to cover up some of the lesser student indiscretions, often involving drug use.
When a student is suspended/expulsed, it is shown by school and by district. If a principal obtains too many, the principals job can be on the line so the principal works diligently to qwell the various ‘situations’ rather than actually have to suspend a student. A principal will do just about anything to sanitize a situation.
The sad part about the sanitizing and lack of transparency is the very fact that the behaviors teachers document, point out, discuss in school meetings, call parents about and are avoided by administration are the very behaviors which get us Columbine and other horrible situations.
Do not ever assume ‘know one knew’ – I can assure you there were a ton of teachers who knew but the administration was busy making nice with the teachers (denying tenure if untenured, move you to a position with more preps or at a less savory school if tenured, letting you go if at a charter school or private school) in the way only administration can play when they are not asked to be accountable and transparent.
Hopefully more parents will stand up to administration and demand they have a conscience and do what is in the best interests of education – not the numbers.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (4/22, Matteucci) reports, “Most schools across the metro area — and across the nation — have a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy against fights, which means both the bully and the victim are disciplined, said Steven Teske, president of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges of Georgia.” Judge Teske said, “Zero tolerance is zero intelligence,” adding that “administrators won’t investigate to see who the primary aggressor is … So it is difficult to identify who the true bully is.” He plans to “start enforcing a chronic discipline policy, which will require parents to follow the school’s recommendations” regarding bullying. The recommendations “can include everything from court-mandated counseling to intervention from the Division of Family and Children Services.”
This was found on 6/11/2009 and seems to be the best form of transparency ever!!!
Hillsborough County, Florida, To Allow Students To Post Complaints On District, School Websites.
The Tampa Tribune (6/10, Peterson) reported that beginning “next fall, Hillsborough County students who are being bullied will be able to post their complaints anonymously on a school district Web site.” In addition, “students and parents with a complaint will also be able to make a report at the school site, using a new form the district has created especially for bullying cases.” District leaders “say that giving students anonymity will embolden them to reveal incidents they have seen or experienced and been afraid to talk about.” Site planners have thus far “decided they want each report to go directly to the school involved. The school will then investigate and report back to district officials.”