The high school that I went to was in a very poor area of town. The student body was primarily black with a few Latinos and Caucasians mixed in. While other schools in the inner city suffered from a lot of violence, ours was pretty quiet. As a matter of fact, it had fewer fights and outbreaks than practically any other school in the city. Security was unheard of back then. The only security that we had was the janitor, an old Greek immigrant named George who stood by the door chewing his cigar when school let out in the afternoon.
The reason my school was so safe, I think, was the quality of the teaching staff. Most of the teachers really wanted to teach and had given up higher paying jobs in the suburbs to be there. There was a lot of communication and interaction with the students and therefore a lot of respect. The second reason was because of the size of the school. It was the smallest in the city and had less students per teacher than most of the other schools.
In my sophomore year, I decided that I wanted to be a drafting engineer like my uncle. The only problem was that the high school I was attending didn’t have such a course. The only place that did was a technical school that wasn’t too far from there. It was a much larger school and took students from all of the high schools all over the city. It was rumored that it was OK to go there except on the very last day of the year. That’s when several gangs from other schools took over and basically rioted the place, breaking windows, looting, and robbing anyone they came in contact with.
That year everyone on the bus agreed not to come in on the last day of school, but one of the teachers told us that if we didn’t show up, we’d flunk the course. He told us that there was a final exam that day that we couldn’t miss.
So a total of three students showed up for the bus that day, I was one of them. When we got to class the teacher told us that the tests hadn’t come in the mail and we were free to go. No sooner did I got into the hall I was attacked. I was punched, knocked down, and kicked in the face. The only thing that saved me was some kid that I had never seen before in my life opened a side door for me and let me escape. I later read in the paper that several people had been mobbed that day and there was one stabbing.
Dangerous back then, but not like it is today. This month is the 10-year anniversary of the mass shootings at Columbine where 13 students were gunned down by two other students, who then turned the guns on themselves.
According to CNN, (http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/04/20/columbine.school.safety/index.html), schools started beefing up security right after the shootings with metal detectors, cameras, and police in the hallways. Now, a new security focus is being implemented where the schools can protect themselves through better-trained staff and administrators and awareness of problems before they can get out of control.
I personally think that a lot of the violence can be prevented by greater acceptance of those students that may not “fit in” with the rest of the crowd. This is born out by the fact that in a lot of thees cases the students that go crazy and start shooting, attack specific students and teachers and spare others.
I’m reminded of this story that someone told after a postal worker killed several of his co-workers. He said that if you have a very quiet, rather odd guy at work who stays by himself all the time, you should bring him a Snickers bar every day and talk to him. Then when he loses it and he’s shooting up the pace he might say: “Hey! You’re the guy who brought me the Snickers bar every day. Thanks.” And then spare you. That just might be all it takes. A Snickers bar.
Source: John D. Sutter, CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/04/20/columbine.school.safety/index.html