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donco6 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 01:38 PM
Original message
The problem of school safety.
I was inspired by this article in the CSM: http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1012/p03s03-ussc.html?s=h...

It seems everyone has opinions on how to make schools safer. Most seem to run along the "schools as prisons" philosophy. For example, "We need more secure entrances." Well, as prisons know, the only way to truly secure an entrance is to funnel all traffic through that entrance. That means fencing the entire site (pref. with barbed or razor wire to curtail circumventing the system), creating a tunnel to the door, installing ever-more-sophisticated weapons detectors, etc. etc. It means hiring more security to monitor the machines and flow of people. And that's just securing the entrance. Securing and monitoring the rest of the site is another problem altogether.

Then there's the Security Resource Officer extortion. These are police officers who are paid primarily out of K-12 funds to provide security to the schools. Over the 10 years I've been here, I can't think of one that rose above the Barney One Bullet category. But we can't get rid of them because they're also city or county employees, and the other entity will accuse us of making schools "less safe" if we get rid of these idiots. In my opinion, taxpayer supported police protection shouldn't end at the school house door - but that's, in effect, what happens, unless you pay them yourself.

And then there's everything schools are supposed to teach kids in order to make them better behaved. We're supposed to teach morality (but not too much morality), ethics (but only if it matches MY version of right and wrong), civics (but not any of that community service crap), the Bible (but only as to its impact on Western Civ nudge nudge wink wink), etc. In the meanwhile, we face sanctions because our reading, math and writing scores are low and parents are upset because their kid has to wear pants that don't sag to his ass and a shirt that doesn't have obscene language.

And the bullies - we need to eliminate bullying. And so I get to endure the parents of the bully SCREAMING at me and my secretary in my office to the point that I have to call the Sheriff to take him away (we had to get a restraining order on this nut, and his kid is still a problem . . . ) And I'm not even a principal - I'm the finance guy and he did this to ME. So you can imagine what he's like at the school. Duh, wonder why his kid is the way he is . . .

So what's the answer folks? Well, here's what I think. First of all, one of the biggest mistakes we ever made in public education was the big school district consolidation movements of the 50s and 60s. Yes it made sense financially - economies of scale and all that. But it created these enormous districts that are utterly hopeless when it comes to making change. Districts should not be larger than 10,000 kids. We need to break them up and scale them down. Once that happens, parents can actually become part of the system, instead of a nameless face in a crowd. They can be heard so that they are not frustrated by the bureaucracy. They can partner with schools in helping reinforce the messages that all sides agree on.

Second, school size. In the US, we have some high schools that exceed 5,000 students. They nothing less than huge, impersonal bully-making machines. In my experience, schools that are smaller deal with bullies in more effective ways - everyone knows everyone, parents know teachers, and in general people just know more about what's going on in the daily lives of kids. I'd rather see high schools at no more than 400 students - maybe 600. I'd like to see teachers paid to monitor hallways, with release time provided for planning and coordination (kids respect teachers when they know them - much more so than cops).

Of course, all this flies in the face of "efficiency". But what some of the school safety folks don't understand is that there is no quick or inexpensive fix to this problem. That's why we've spun our wheels for so long. It's directly related to school performance, test scores, teacher satisfaction, pay scales, bullying - it's all the same thing. It all goes back to mistakes made decades ago, and it's going to take some huge changes to fix it. And to think that you can solve the problem without fundamentally changing the very structure of schools is - in my opinion - preposterous.




With that said, none of this relates to a truly random shooting - like the Platte Canyon or Amish school shootings. You might as well try to prepare for a meteor falling on your head. I drive by Platte Canyon HS all the time. It's already a small high school. It's right in the open, not surrounded by dark trees or brush. It's just 100 ft from a major highway and the grounds are visible for hundreds of yards. It has big windows, a very visible main entrance, etc. All the things you would expect in a safe school design. But you can't plan for mental illness. To expect that nothing bad will ever happen at school is just unrealistic.
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cmp944 Donating Member (2 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 01:54 PM
Response to Original message
1. Very good ideas
What you wrote makes very good sense, I for one would like to see the schools reformed to reflect your ideas listed above.

What you said about the horrible acts committed recently in schools is so true, however I am curious as to what knee jerk laws the bureaucrats will create; laws that criminals will ignore and law abiding citizens will be hindered by.
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donco6 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 01:57 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Well, you can already see some.
Someone will propose metal detectors for all schools.
Someone will propose more gun laws.
Someone will propose more required training for teachers - everything from defensive arts to psychology courses
Someone will propose required uniforms for students (to separate them from intruders)

The list is endless. And all are cosmetic.
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Quantess Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:06 PM
Response to Reply #2
8. Someone in WI already did.
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newyawker99 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-15-06 02:22 PM
Response to Reply #1
15. Hi cmp944!!
Welcome to DU!! :toast:
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Retired AF Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 02:04 PM
Response to Original message
3. I quit reading the article right after
"Then there's the Security Resource Officer extortion. These are police officers who are paid primarily out of K-12 funds to provide security to the schools. Over the 10 years I've been here, I can't think of one that rose above the Barney One Bullet category. But we can't get rid of them because they're also city or county employees, and the other entity will accuse us of making schools "less safe" if we get rid of these idiots. In my opinion, taxpayer supported police protection shouldn't end at the school house door - but that's, in effect, what happens, unless you pay them yourself."
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donco6 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 02:08 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Because you agree or disagree? eom
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Retired AF Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 02:55 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. Disagree
How many school shootings have you seen that had a cop posted in them?
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donco6 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:02 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Columbine
They had at least one SRO.
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HiFructosePronSyrup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:03 PM
Response to Reply #5
7. Well, there was the Red Lake school last year...
Where the shooter shot the cop first then killed seven or so other students.

Given that shooters are usually suicidal, do you think they won't do it because Barney Fife's walking the halls?
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donco6 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:09 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. We did a simulation last year.
At one of our middle schools we did a sim with the cops, fire, sheriff, other emergency responders. The SRO was the first one shot.
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HiFructosePronSyrup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:12 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. Ever heard any reports...
Edited on Thu Oct-12-06 03:16 PM by Bornaginhooligan
of officers bullying the students themselves?

Odd coincidence this, but my granddaughter-in-law was assaulted by one of her students yesterday, and the responding officer spent twenty minutes trying to talk her out of pressing charges.
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donco6 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:15 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. ABSOFRICKINLUTELY.
The problem is, we don't get any say in who they place in our schools, even though we pay at least half their salary (which comes to $30,000 plus costs for overtime). Anyway, we don't get the brightest bulbs placed in the schools. And often they are just this side of being a Nazi brownshirt. So they're out there throwing kids against the lockers (had to settle a court case on that one), or participating in other mayhem. Honestly, I'd rather spend the money on a good social worker.
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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-13-06 04:36 PM
Response to Original message
12. I will second a call
for smaller districts and smaller schools. I've worked in large and small, and I know that we make better connections with the community, and with individual families, in a smaller setting.

My current K-8 school is too big, imo. It has about 550 students. I'd like to see school populations between 350 - 400. Still, our 6th - 8th population is about 90; one class each grade, with all 3 teachers sharing all the kids.

We get frequent visits from former students who have moved on to the local high school, population about 1200. Last week, one of last year's 8th graders stopped in. We chatted while I worked, and she said that she's doing fine academically, but she misses her teachers. She said, "This year, my teachers don't even know my name. They don't know anything about me. I liked having teachers that know I'm a real person."

As far as teachers patrolling the halls? <sigh>

I know that you are right; students respond better to teachers than they do to people who are just hired to supervise halls and grounds. It's that personal connection my student above mentioned.

Still, I can't tell you how much I resent duty. I'm standing, or walking around, basically babysitting, while my brain is thinking about the piles of grading, the lesson plans to be written, the parents to be called, and all of the other things waiting for me. When it takes me 10 hours a day to keep up with all of that, I really, really, resent time babysitting and time in meetings.

As a finance guy, you know better than any what the budget looks like. In the ideal world, I used to think that schools should hire a certain number of extra, real, contractual teachers. They could be onsite substitutes, who worked in classes with teachers and kids when they weren't needed to cover classrooms, or do "duty." They could make small-group and one-on-one time for all students who need it, regardless of special ed or title I parameters, a reality. They could do the before and after school tutoring programs, some being early start and some late start employees, to have a wider time period covered.

Then there is the economic reality.
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donco6 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-15-06 02:30 AM
Response to Reply #12
13. Yes.
I know about the hall duty thing, and I certainly can't blame anyone for not wanting to do it. What I meant to say was that I would rather hire some additional teachers who could double as - I dunno - perhaps permanent subs or counseling interns or social workers - just people who the kids can relate to who won't treat them like criminals. That's what the SROs do and it just does not work.

Your last paragraph is right on.

And the thing is - THIS IS THE COST of education! What we work with now is just unrealistic when stacked up against everything people want schools to be.
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dsc Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-15-06 07:30 AM
Response to Original message
14. I have to same my experience with resource officers
has been great. The resource officer at my last school was a total gem. Otherwise I think you have some valid points.
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