Are Georgia’s schools safe?

Georgia students bring guns and other weapons to school. There have been thousands cases of robbery, physical assaults and drug- and sex-related offenses on public school campuses.
But for the past three years no Georgia public school has declared as unsafe under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The law allows each state to determine what makes a school “persistently dangerous.” Students attending these schools are allowed to transfer to another school. Less than 50 schools nationwide have been listed as persistently dangerous.
For a Georgia school to be persistently dangerous it must meet specific criteria for three consecutive years. This includes at least one or more students committing a violent crime – such as rape, murder or aggravated sexual battery – on campus or at a school-sanctioned event.
Some parents say only using extremely violent incidents hides the unsafe environment that can exist at many schools. They worry about daily fights, drugs on campus and threats from bullies. They say these incidents should included in determining whether a school is safe.
Safety is a relative term. How should we determine if a school is dangerous?

15 comments Add your comment

V for Vendetta

March 16th, 2009
10:44 am

Why don’t we ask a better question: Why should schools have to be classified as such to begin with? It is only because of the mistaken belief that education is a RIGHT and not a privilege that we have problems like this. Sure, some schools in some areas would always be rougher than others, but many of the aforementioned problems could be vitiually eliminated if the students who were (constantly) causing them were themselves eliminated. We shouldn’t be discussing if or if not, we should be discussing WHY and WHY NOT. The answer is simple: the government! Compulsory attendance laws are a ridiculous joke–an archaic means of getting kids to school (or “protecting” them from child labor way back in the day).

Yes, it’s true that many kids are less respectful, more apathetic, and privy to technology and information that wasn’t available five years ago. Such things lead to new and unusual problems (”sexting” anyone?). But that’s no excuse. Discipline remains an issue because schools fail to remove the consistently disruptive students. I can name off AT LEAST five kids I know of who have discipline records exceeding forty, fifty, or even one hundred infractions during their public school careers. (Hint: They’re not seniors!) Why are these kids still in school? Why do we continue to allow these types of disruptions to take place? These students should be removed PERMANENTLY. End of story.

But hey if it makes sense it will never happen, so why should we even waste time worrying about it?

Silence is not golden

March 16th, 2009
11:27 am

Even with this issue staring her dead in the face, Maureen Downey the education shill won’t address it, because it goes against the AJC editorial policy that consists of three words; blame teachers first.

Of course it's safe

March 16th, 2009
11:37 am

If you want to look into the mindset of Kathy Cox and how she and her cronies determine the safety of schools, look back to this press release from June 6, 1944:

Beach safety patrol director Kathy Cox has declared that Omaha Beach is safe for tourists to visit today.

I think that tells you all you need to know.

jim d

March 16th, 2009
2:48 pm

NOPE–I’m with V on this one

Sick and Tires

March 16th, 2009
2:53 pm

I am a middle school teacher in Gwinnett County and I want to know when are the parents going to be punished? Schools are so afraid to go after the parents and the children so they blame the teachers. Education and discipline start at home and if we don’t start holding parents and students accountable, the situation will only get worse. I have students that should have been kicked out of my school many times but they (principals, BOE) are so afraid of of lawsuits, that they refuse. V for Vendetta is right; schools refuse to remove disruptive students. They are allowed back into the classroom without reprimand and we are expected to deal with them or if they are reprimanded (ISS/OSS),they still return with the same behavior. Why are school systems catering to students who don’t want to cooperate? I guess kicking students out of school for constant misbehavior sounds too much like right, so it will never happen.

jim d

March 16th, 2009
3:31 pm

sick tires,

It ain’t the parents they fear. Alvin has never ever feared what a parent or group of parents might do.

The fear stems from loss of funding and maintaining that bright shiny facade of being the best.

Amy

March 16th, 2009
3:36 pm

I am also a middle school teacher in Gwinnett County, and my school had numerous violations last year…and even more this year. I think parents should be punished for their children’s behavior at school. I have students who are continual behavior problems (in every class they have been in since kindergarten) and take away from the other students who are trying to learn. I teach 25 students at a time. About 2 students in each class take up about 20% of my time due to me trying to deal with their constant behavior problems. That means the other 23 students suffer and lose 1/5 of the time (one whole day of class a week!).

In my opinion, these students need to be removed from the school. But no…it looks too bad on the school if we have too many students expelled. Our principal is entirely too worried about the school’s image to kick out the kids who don’t behave. Makes a ton of sense, huh?

A + B = No support for discipline

March 16th, 2009
4:05 pm

Well as long as Alvin can continue to sign off on falsified discipline reports, and Kathy Cox will do nothing to stop it, it looks like that’s what’s going to keep happening. Even the violent assault of teachers like what happened to Janice Fair hasn’t stopped it.

Does someone have to actually die to stop it? No, the sad thing is someone would have to actually die three years in a row.

Sick and Tired

March 16th, 2009
4:40 pm

sorry! I meant to type “tired” instead of “tires”.

Mr. Wilbanks needs to rethink the slogan “…World Class Schools” because that is the biggest lie.

Amy, we must teach at the same school because I have the same problem and it is not limited to just my classroom or grade level.

catlady

March 16th, 2009
4:42 pm

Anyone who wants a real answer to this question, visit 5 middle or high schools this week. Stay for 2 hours in each. Then come back with your answer.

There may be safe schools out there, but if a school has to have a permanent security officer, think twice about saying that school is safe.

What is so amazing to me is that if the 70% of the kids who don’t cause problems had parents who would STORM the board offices at each meeting, who would carry signs and be on the news and in the paper, you can be sure that something would be done at the state and local level. But, many of the most active parents move or pull their kids out and the others who are left don’t take the lead and DEMAND that their kids be able to study in peace, and that the troublemakers be removed.

jim d

March 16th, 2009
5:31 pm

Sick,

Soory about the tires thingy, figured it was a typo but just had to go with it (LOL)

Seriously though, you and Amy are most likely in differnt schools. The problem in Gwinnett is not localized, it exists in EVERY school and will continue to do so as long as the system brushes over incidents for the sake of IMAGE. (thank you mister wilbanks—-NOT)

Lee

March 16th, 2009
10:03 pm

Cat, perhaps if 70% of the teachers who face this crap everyday would march on their local BOE, they might get something done.

I always thought that a certain number of lesser offenses, such as simple battery, would get a school on the dangerous list. Apparently not.

A Persistently Dangerous School is any public school in which for each of three consecutive years on the property of the public schools, or at an event within the jurisdiction of a public school, or at a school sponsored event:
A. at least one student enrolled in that school is found by official action to have committed an offense in violation of a school rule that involvement one or more of the following criminal offenses: aggravated battery; aggravated child molestation; aggravated sexual battery; aggravated sodomy; armed robbery first degree arson, kidnapping, murder,
rape, or voluntary manslaughter, or
B. Two percent or more of the student population or ten students, whichever is greater, are found by official action to have committed an offense in violation of a school rule that involved one or more of the following criminal offenses: non-felony drugs, felony drugs, felony weapons, terroristic threats, or
Any combination of A or B.

Interesting that sexual battery by a teacher on a student is not included.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

March 16th, 2009
11:53 pm

Lee, your last sentence alludes to a VERY INTERESTING issue: the reporting of teacher crimes upon students.

By the way, KUDOS to the AJC for your accumulation and dissemination on your website of invaluable, statewide educational achievement and behavior data!

ktmac

March 17th, 2009
7:47 am

Primarily, we are discussing the safety that students bring upon themselves and the school as a whole. What about the safety of others entering the campus and building? I have been arguing the “open campus” theme that many Gwinnett schools have. We’re talking elementary school on up and the facade that the schools are secure and safe. Any number of adults can walk around the buildings and campus going undetected. Doors are not locked for fear of “trailer class access”. It’s ridiculous. I recently pointed out in our school that 4 first graders were allowed to walk through a parking lot and delivery area by themselves- absolutely no supervision. This happened four times a week at scheduled times. Now the school has installed cameras. Great, but I believe that they are archived so that only helps after the fact! Let’s not even talk about the fact that all trailers are unlocked. We have a park going in next to the school. Construction workers, landscape, all are nearby. In this day and age MANY things need to be done to protect our children against the assaults the COULD happen. Primarily at the younger grades when they physically can’t defend themselves! Settles Bridge, Forsyth County is a great example of a safe and secure school. Gwinnett county needs to take notice! I am so unhappy I am looking to move!

Chuck

March 17th, 2009
11:31 am

Wow,

I could write a book on this topic. I agree with much of what has been said and it also applies outside of Gwinnett. It’s a problem statewide.

Problem students…not a new concept, but we are not nearly as effective at dealing with them as we used to be. There are a couple of problems. First, principals are afraid to suspend students because the number of days students are suspended effects whether or not a school makes AYP. A school can do great on standardized tests and yet not make AYP because of ATTENDANCE. That is just crazy. In my opinion, the best way to solve this problem is to come up with a way to utilize the internet to educate problem students. This could be accomplished by using interactive programs, streaming video/ 2 way audio-video through the net. Teachers could be assigned for each subject to teach these kids. There could be a “Brady Bunch” type screen arrangement so the teachers can see all of the students at once. Programs could be written to monitor the time students are not in their seats and penalties applied if students do not comply. Classrooms could be set up at juvenile facilities for students who refuse to comply. Parents could drop them off at 6:00 a.m. and pick them up at 6:00 p.m. for those students and parents would have to pay for those services. Parents who can’t afford to pay should have to work the costs off by doing work at the school after hours, along with their unruly students. Maybe even the parents who CAN afford to pay should still have to work to pay for the services. In addition, PARENTS should be required to attend parenting classes that would be held immediately after they finish working at the school. Students in the program would go to behavior modification classes. In any event, students who comply from home AND those forced to comply through juvenile facilities would still be counted present and not hurt the school’s attendance record.

The Second reason we can’t deal with behavior issues very well is because some teachers don’t do their jobs very well. This occurs in part because of poor preparation in classroom management techniques, but more often the problem is poor induction. Again, while it would cost more initially to do this, in the long run I think our schools will be much better as a result. I am speaking of improving teacher induction by assigning them FULL TIME to a Master Teacher for their first year in a classroom. A Master teacher could share classroom responsibilities with the new teacher and advise them and evaluate them on a daily basis. This should be done constructively and not punitively, BUT a Master teacher in the classroom EVERY DAY as the new teacher teaches, would be in a position to determine at the end of the year whether or not the new teacher should be retained. The contract of new teachers should reflect that the opinion of the Master teacher is the deciding factor in their future employment. The Master teacher would have primary responsibility for the class, but the new teacher would do most of the teaching with constant feedback from the Master teacher. They would plan lessons together and discuss successes and opportunities for improvement.

What we do with new teachers is really is not fair to them OR to students. In many cases, it is a LOST YEAR. We can’t afford lost years in education.

There of course will be arguments against each of these proposals. Some will say they are too costly. Some will say that it is not fair to make poor parents work after hours to pay for the program. Some will say that parents may ABUSE their children to make them comply.My answer would be that in the long run it would reduce costs as many maintainance problems would be corrected by parents rather than being out sourced. In addition, social costs would decrease by taking these kids off of the streets while they are suspended. Secondly, if we are going to hold schools, principals and teachers accountable, WHY SHOULDN’T WE ALSO HOLD PARENTS AND STUDENTS ACCOUNTABLE?. Finally, there are laws against child abuse. Parents who are taught parenting skills as part of this program will find more constructive ways of dealing with their children.