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Monday, February 20, 2006

Education news summary: School violence

(Posted 20 Feb 2006)
Question: With test scores among the lowest in the state, what lessons are county schools teaching effectively? Answer below.
  • School bus drivers want respect, discipline enforced on buses.
  • Prince George’s County school bus drivers packed the school board hearing room in Upper Marlboro Feb. 16 to protest what they said was constant misbehavior by, and lack of respect from, rowdy students.

    The drivers complained they had had enough of breaking up fights, dealing with unruly children and asking for help from administrators who they claim ignore the dangerous environment on school buses.

    The drivers also said when they submitted written complaints about students who violated safety rules, administrators and principals offered little help, and kept the offending students on the buses.

    ‘‘It’s become the norm for administrators to ignore these problems,” said bus driver Karen Patton. ‘‘What happened to the student code of conduct?”

    Last week’s bus shooting incident near Crossland High School in Temple Hills, where two young men fired at a school bus after disembarking, prompted the protest, organized by AFSCME Local 2250, the bus drivers’ union.
  • Bus Drivers Urge School Board to Get Tough on Unruly Kids.
  • School Bus Drivers Tired Of Unruly Behavior; Drivers Air Concerns With School Board.
  • PG School Bus Drivers Tired Of Abuse.
  • Note: The school bus driver protest apparently was not reported in the online editions of the Examiner, Post, or Times.
  • End to school fights sought at Surrattsville; PTA vice president knocked to the ground when fight erupted as he waited to pick up his son.
  • Frustrated with fighting on school grounds, Surrattsville High School parents have formed a safety committee that will be used to work on solving what some parents say is a prevalent problem at the school.
    [. . .]
    ‘‘Kids are fighting at this high school like it’s going out of style,” Ross said. ‘‘We’re trying to come up with a solution to resolve the fighting, cursing and the out of hand behavior.”
    [. . .]
    Since the start of the school year, there have been 76 fights at the school, White said, adding that 39 long-term suspensions and 37 short-term suspensions have been handed out to students for fighting since Aug. 21.
    [. . .].

Answer: It is ok to disrespect rules and authority.

News reports suggest that fighting and violence are relatively routine on school buses and within schools. School bus drivers, especially, are virtually on their own when violence occurs. School policies do not encourage or facilitate calling police. Students are being taught that it is ok to fight and misbehave because nobody is likely to stop them and the eventual consequences, if any, are minor.

Each new incident that goes unpunished, or brings only a slap on the wrist, reinforces the lesson that authority figures may safely be ignored and that rules and laws are made to be broken.

Students also tend to learn by example. When the person in charge of the school system violates the rules and the school board defends him to the bitter end, what lesson are they teaching the students? Certainly NOT the importance of following the rules.

Some commentators believe much of the crime among young people is due to high number of broken homes and fatherless children. What example are we setting when the school chief lives with a woman not his wife? Or when one of his top asssistants blames her federal money-laundering conviction on the clain that she was misled by a lover, not her husband? It may be nice to think that the personal lives of authority figures should be private, but the fact is that their lives are not private and do have an effect on the children under their tutelage.

Much of the violent crime and car theft problem in the county is caused by young people who do not fear the consequences of their actions. Why? Often because of what they have learned in our schools. Do we really want to continue teaching the same lessons?


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