Friday, September 28, 2007

Safety First! School Security Uber Alles

News reports from Knight Highschool in Palmdale, California, brings us the latest images of what life in high school is like under the regime of governing schools through crime. When 16-year-old Pleajhia Mervin dropped a birthday cake she was carrying in the cafeteria to celebrate a friend's birthday, and didn't clean it up to the satisfaction of the school's 300 pound (est.) racist school security guard, she got her wrist broken, got called "nappy headed" and was expelled. When another friend filmed it on his cell phone (watch it here) he got tackled. When her mom came to complain, she got arrested for assault on the principal and spent the night in jail.

How does the school explain such senseless brutality:

"Good afternoon. I can just comment we did have an incident at our school last week. However, I would like to emphasize that we do have a safe campus. I've been working with our staff, with my district office staff, community leaders, and parents, to ensure that we continue to keep our campus safe for all students, but I want people to know that our focus here is academic excellence for all students," (said Dr. Susan McDonald, principal of Knight High School.

How did a "safe campus" become an excuse for brutality? How did sicking security guard who looks like an ex-bouncer from a biker bar on students become the icon of academic excellence at Palmdale High? Thats a good question to ask Dr. Susan McDonald. Her phone number is (661) 533-9000 ext. 184

(Thanks to Paul Hirschfield for calling this to my attention)


Unknown said...

Has the security guard or the school or the police given any explanation for the incident that gives any rationale purpose for breaking the young lady's wrist?

My post on this issue went up yesterday, however, I haven't heard the other side of the story yet. Have you?

Dale Yeager SERAPH said...

Truancy: The root of all school safety problems!

“No child falls through the cracks. They are dropped through or shoved through by lazy, emotionally immature adults and unethical professionals”

After the Columbine shootings I made this statement during an interview on national television. The reporter asked if I really believed that statement and I replied, “absolutely!”

But you may ask what this statement has to do with the issue of truancy? Simple, truant children – who are routinely late or absent – come from dysfunctional homes. Those homes in my experience are lead by caregivers who are more concerned about there own pleasures and convenience than the welfare of their children. Some may say that this is an unkind assessment. My response to them is simple, visit these homes and you will see that this is not an aberration.

While some caregivers have a difficult time because of poverty, work schedules or transitioning to a single parent household; the majority simply refuse to exercise self control or basic order in their homes.

And this assessment is supported by various national studies. Research from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education have found that child neglect and family disorganization are major factors in truancy. The OJJDP also found that “Truancy has been clearly identified as one of the early warning signs of students headed for potential delinquent activity, social isolation, or educational failure via suspension, expulsion, or dropping out.”

More disturbing is a document that I have used for many years in criminal profiling, the Juvenile Sex Offender Assessment Protocol (J-SOAP-II). In this well respected assessment tool, caregiver issues and truancy become connected as impetuses for teen sex offender development:

Inconstant and instable caregivers before the age of 10. Multiple changes in caregivers and living situations.
Chronic truancy, fighting with peers or teachers.
Dr Gerald Patterson sums up the issue this way, “Parenting plays a critical role in the development process of children. Early discipline failures are a primary casual factor in the development of conduct problems. Harsh discipline, low supervision, lack of parental involvement all add to the development of aggressive children”

Bullying, sexual harassment, negative behavior cliques and aggression towards staff are all done by children who come from dysfunctional homes. But beyond the home environment, schools have a big stake in controlling truancy. Not only is it a major part of NCLB compliance but it affects all school safety issues. The US DOE has tracked the following school issues that directly contribute to truancy.

· Lack of effective and consistently applied attendance policies.

· Poor record-keeping, making truancy difficult to spot.

· Teacher characteristics, such as lack of respect for students and neglect of diverse student needs.

· Unsafe environment, for example a school with ineffective discipline policies where bullying is tolerated. [5 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 skipped school because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school.]

Truancy happens in rural, suburban and urban schools and all classes of families. School must take control of their truancy problems or they are bound to be overtaken by it.

A well managed school is a safe school!

Dale Yeager SERAPH said...

SERAPH response to the recent school crime reporting issues in schools.

For many years, state and federal educational organizations and our own firm have been frustrated by the fact that some schools have under reported or inaccurately reported crimes and offenses.

Long before NCLB was made law, data collection from schools was always problematic. In our 16 years as an education safety firm, we have found that there are four critical problems that contribute to this problem.

1. SOFTWARE ISSUES: Current software for incident reporting is flawed. Most reporting software used by schools does not allow for the proper classification of an incident. For example: Two students have a fight. In the first few seconds of the physical confrontation, one student strikes the other in the face with their fist. Towards the end of the fight, the other student picks up a weapon and strikes back with it. With most programs, the school can only classify the event with one description, so school officials usually choose to categorize this type of incident by the lesser of two evils, a fistfight not a fight involving a weapon.

2. LACK OF KNOWLEDGE: When administrators and school staff are questioned about the laws in their respective states regarding child welfare and violence only a small number can accurately explain specific offenses for specific acts. For example, when our staff asks principals and educators about the age of consent law in New York State most of the time we receive three answers 16, 17 or 18. A lack of understanding of the law by school officials is adding to this problem.

In addition, many schools do not know about their specific problems. They report what they see not what is actually happening. This lack of knowing ALL of the issues comes from a lack of assessment, training and planning. All schools must have a thorough assessment of security issues within the context of management structure. How well is the building managed, how well are the students managed, how well are vendors managed, how well are visitors managed and how well are staff members managed? These are the questions that need to be answered to truly understand the extent of the problems within a school or district.

3. ETHICAL SLOP: Because of current state / federal laws and public pressure, there is no motive to be honest as an administrator or school board member about the negative / criminal issues in your district. For example if the district down the road is fudging the numbers and you accurately report yours, as a district you will look mismanaged and they will look well managed.

By being honest about the incidences in your schools, you bring the wrath of state and federal agencies upon yourself or more importantly the parents in your community. An uneven playing field creates opportunity to cheat.

Dr. Steven Levitt has researched this phenomenon in schools and wrote about it in Chapter 1 of his book “Freakonomics” 2005 [New York Times bestseller] In the current state of affairs, the personal ethics of the administrators and board members is the only thing that protects the district or school from lying about their numbers.

4. LACK OF SOLUTIONS: Currently few programs have effectively prevented school related violence or negative behavior by students. Primarily because they do not address the underlying issues of negative parental behavior, truancy, negative cliques, female aggression, negative behavior of staff, policies failures and inconsistent enforcement of the rules by staff. Hiding the “real story” in a district becomes part of the survival process of individuals and their careers.