Archive for the ‘safety’ Category

Mentally ill and violent young men: What is the solution?

In the wake of Newtown, many of you are sending me links to a moving essay by a mother whose adolescent son has violent and unexplained episodes. I added a link and excerpt earlier today, but decided to devote an entry to the essay due to the interest.

I am sharing another excerpt but go to the source and read the full piece. In the essay, the blogger discusses her challenges dealing with her 13-year-old son who is easily and quickly enraged. She does not want him in the prison system, which, she says, is where many mentally ill young men end up. But she worries that he could become a danger to society someday.

She writes:

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental …

Continue reading Mentally ill and violent young men: What is the solution? »

Newtown shooting: Should schools discuss it today with students? If so, how? Local schools taking extra precautions.

Update at 11:35 a.m: If you are willing to talk to an AJC reporter about what security measures schools are putting in place today or what measures you think they should be putting in place, please email Jeffry Scott.

The Newtown school shooting dominated conversation throughout metro Atlanta this weekend. It was referenced at concerts, sporting events and churches. Neighbors talked about it on the street. People mentioned it while waiting in line at the mall.

Should it continue to be talked about today in school?

On Friday, students were largely unaware of the horrific mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary by an apparently deranged young man who killed his mother and then slaughtered 26 people at the school, including 20 first graders, before turning the gun on himself.

My twins are in eighth grade and have read about the deaths both in the AJC and online. They grabbed the newspapers Saturday and Sunday morning and read the front page stories.

A thoughtful teacher posted this …

Continue reading Newtown shooting: Should schools discuss it today with students? If so, how? Local schools taking extra precautions. »

A crime that shocks the senses: Shooting children and staff to death in their school

Updated Saturday with DeKalb Schools statement:

The shootings in Newtown have deeply shaken people everywhere. I continue to see numerous Facebook postings expressing shock, grief and anger, and it is the first thing  people mention wherever I go in Decatur today. Many people cry as they talk about the mass murder of 20 children and six adults at the school.

In addition, my local school system sent out an advisory today about to talk to children here about the deaths of children, teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

We are a nation in crisis today over this. And a nation unsure of what to do next.

Back to the original posting from yesterday:

There are simply no words.  A gunman opens fire in a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school and kills 26 people, many children in first grade.

Twenty children are among the dead at Sandy Hook Elementary, a school of 700 in  Newtown, a small town in Connecticut, about 65 miles from New York City. The gunmen, who …

Continue reading A crime that shocks the senses: Shooting children and staff to death in their school »

APS watchdog delves into charter school chain with history of problems. Yet, APS board considers renewal.

You’ve probably heard the expression that there are two things you don’t want to see being made: Sausages and laws.

As a longtime reporter, I’ve been surprised at how elected officials approve legislation or make critical decisions with very little information or with a complete disregard for the facts. I once attended a three-hour meeting of the House Judiciary Committee where 18 witnesses — including a national expert flown in by the committee — testified in opposition to the bill under discussion. The witnesses provided convincing and overwhelming evidence that the law would be a nightmare to enforce and would only worsen the problem it was supposed to solve. Not a single person spoke in favor it the law except the sponsors.

But the committee passed the bill anyway. And the state has been at the losing end of legal challenges ever since.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Atlanta school board’s debate over renewing the charter for Atlanta Preparatory Academy. Several of you …

Continue reading APS watchdog delves into charter school chain with history of problems. Yet, APS board considers renewal. »

APS carbon monoxide leak: Glad to hear that students and most staff at Finch Elementary are fine

Updated Monday at 10:34 p.m. with news that Finch will be closed tomorrow and students directed to another campus:

It appears Atlanta Public Schools handled the crisis well today at Finch Elementary where a faulty boiler is suspected of causing a carbon monoxide leak that sent students and staff to the hospital.

Forty-three students were taken to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Hughes Spalding. A spokesperson for Grady Memorial Hospital said 10 adults were brought in for evaluation. No serious injuries were reported, though two adults may be kept overnight for observation at Grady.

Finch will be closed on Tuesday. Students are to report to Kennedy Elementary, according to APS spokesman Stephen Alford.

According to the AJC:

Superintendent Erroll Davis applauded Finch principal Carol Evans’ swift response in the wake of the incident, but acknowledged the district could improve.

“In all emergency situations, one of the things you find is that the calling trees are not up …

Continue reading APS carbon monoxide leak: Glad to hear that students and most staff at Finch Elementary are fine »

First Paideia, now Pace. Staff member arrested for child porn.

Parents at two of Atlanta’s most prestigious private schools are reeling from the child pornography arrests of school staff.

A few days ago, the AJC reported that a Paideia school janitor was arrested on child porn charges. In a letter, the Paideia headmaster informed parents that the janitor allegedly told federal investigators he placed hidden cameras in the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms at the private Druid Hills academy.

Headmaster Paul Bianchi wrote that Josh Ensley, a janitor for Paideia for 17 years, was arrested after he received illegal materials through the mail. Agents charged him with possession of child porn after a search of his home computer.

A search of the bathrooms at Paideia, which instructs students ages 3 through 18, turned up no recording devices, according to Bianchi.

Now, it is the Pace Academy headmaster sending a shocking letter home this evening to parents at the Buckhead school announcing the arrest of veteran fine arts teacher William Villemez …

Continue reading First Paideia, now Pace. Staff member arrested for child porn. »

A new high stakes test: Woodward Academy will screen its students for drugs. Good idea for all schools?

Several Woodward Academy parents sent me notes a few weeks ago about a surprising letter that came home from the College Park private school announcing that students will be subjected to random drug tests starting in fall of 2013.

Those parents were not happy about the plan to test randomly selected students. Many private schools around the country   test their students for drugs, although there is debate over the efficacy of such policies.

One Woodward parent wrote: “I’m completely opposed to the  school’s decision…It’s interesting to note that all studies conducted in regards to student drug testing indicate that these programs are ineffective at reducing drug use.”  Another told me: “I am considering other schools for my son next year.”

I went to the National Institute on Drug Abuse web site for background on student drug testing and found this question and answer:

What has research determined about the utility of random drug tests in schools?

There is not very much …

Continue reading A new high stakes test: Woodward Academy will screen its students for drugs. Good idea for all schools? »

Texas school district changes policy to allow male employees to paddle female students.

There is so much wrong with this story out of Texas, including parents granting permission for their teenage daughters to be paddled in high school, that I am not sure where to begin.

So, I will let you read this Fort Worth Star-Telegram article and judge for yourselves.

As I say whenever these stories appear — and they appear with disquieting frequency — corporal punishment ought to be banned from every school. Today.

Here is an excerpt of the story by Bill Miller of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

SPRINGTOWN, Texas — School board members voted Monday night to change school district policy to allow opposite gender employees to administer corporal punishment to students, but only with written permission from parents.

Also during the meeting, which included emotional addresses from some parents, the board made it policy that a same-gender school official must be on hand to witness, and parents can only request one paddling per semester.

The vote came after two female …

Continue reading Texas school district changes policy to allow male employees to paddle female students. »

Are we pushing kids into the school-to-prison pipeline with suspensions?

Many schools maintain a push and pull approach to attendance. One one hand, school administrators make extensive efforts to push parents to get their children to class.

Yet, schools adhere to suspension policies that pull students out of their seats for minor infractions. In 2010, U.S. schools suspended more than 3 million students in kindergarten through 12th grade. And many of those students were minorities and children with disabilities, according to a new analysis of data from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

The review by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, found one in six African-American students was suspended from school, more than three times the rate of their white counterparts. Those findings are creating significant concern as school suspensions are linked to retention, lower graduation rates and funneling kids into what is known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

The analysis also found that more than 13 …

Continue reading Are we pushing kids into the school-to-prison pipeline with suspensions? »

Georgia makes parent volunteers in schools mandatory child abuse reporters. Is that a mistake?

Schools in Georgia are now informing parents of a law passed this year that broadens the list of people mandated to report child abuse. The list now includes volunteers at churches, colleges, clubs, summer camps or soccer fields or parents who chaperone a field trip. They could go to jail if they fail to report suspected abuse.

A Fulton parent sent me a copy of a letter she wrote to her legislator expressing concerns about the law. She writes:  “… there are hundreds of volunteers in the FCS system and I believe this law leaves the door open for the possibility of a volunteer thinking they see a case and reporting it ‘just in case.’  After all, if they don’t, they might be charged with a misdemeanor, right? This leaves a terrible scenario where an innocent child/family may be traumatized by the removal of a child and lengthy “investigations.” I personally would call this child abuse.”

A short excerpt of the letter is below. I asked the Fulton school system to explain this …

Continue reading Georgia makes parent volunteers in schools mandatory child abuse reporters. Is that a mistake? »