All Articles Tagged "school violence"
(San Francisco Chronicle) — A Union City school district has agreed to pay $725,000 to 12 African American students and their families who accused the district of failing to protect them from racial harassment and violence, including the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old classmate. ”The violence against African American youth in Union City has been going on unchecked for years, and it has to stop now,” Pamela Price, a lawyer for the families, said Thursday in announcing the settlement of a federal court suit. The suit alleged that the New Haven Unified School District had ignored years of complaints that the Decoto gang, mostly Latino, was entering campuses and attacking black students.
It’s a question that author Caitlin Flanagan, who believes that frat houses are the most malevolent of male power institutions, answers with a resounding yes.
Recently, Flanagan penned a piece for the Wall Street Journal about rape on college campuses, or more specifically, incidents of rape that involve drinking and fraternities. She cites a 2007 National Institute of Justice study, which concluded that fraternity men who tend to drink more heavily and frequently than non-members are more likely to perpetrate sexual assault than non-fraternity men. Said Flanagan, “The Greek system is dedicated to quelling young men’s anxiety about submitting themselves to four years of sissy-pants book learning by providing them with a variety of he-man activities: drinking, drugging, ESPN watching and the sexual mistreatment of women.”
Honestly, I don’t think I could disagree with her on that point. In my opinion, it’s really simple: if a particularly fraternity—or sorority for that matter—continues to be a source of sexual assault or other forms of violence, then they do not need to exist on a college campus.
However, what Flanagan is suggesting goes beyond scrutinizing the lack of accountability that colleges and universities place on fraternity organizations. What she is actually suggesting is that the entire Greek system helps to encourage the mindset that violence and mistreatment of women is okay. I’m not very certain of that.
However, Flanagan is not alone in her assessment of Greek-letter organizations. Samantha Wishman recently wrote a similar piece for the Daily Beast, in which she argues that a double standard exists between fraternities and sororities on college campuses. While fraternities are allowed to “party” without fear of being subjected to disciplinary action when they commit serious criminal offenses, sororities, on the other hand, are intensively scrutinized by their national organizations for even minor infractions, such as holding parties with alcohol.
In her piece, Wishman highlights an incident when 16 Yale students filed a complaint against the university for violating Title IX—“alleging that Yale had failed to curb a hostile sexual environment” for women on campus,” including an incident where pledges from Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity harassed women students chanting phrases such as “F—ing sluts,” and “No means yes, yes means anal” during their initiation rite.
Certainly, some fraternity organizations do give way to some pretty, immature and downright criminal behavior. With thousands of fraternity chapters in the U.S. alone, it only stands to reason that some of its membership would lack a certain moral compass. But to suggest that the actions of a few reflect the actions of all others fraternities is too broad of an indictment.
(Washington Post) — The federal government is investigating how D.C. public schools respond to reports of sexual violence and what they are doing to prevent such incidents, a senior U.S. education official said Monday. The inquiry comes after an allegation of a rape last fall at Dunbar High School in Northwest Washington. Russlynn H. Ali, assistant education secretary for civil rights, said that even though criminal charges were eventually dropped in that case, the incident raised broader questions that warrant federal review. “Now it’s about what is the environment in your school and in your district,” Ali said. “Do girls and young women feel safe? What are the procedures if this were to happen again? What would be the immediate response?” Ali said federal officials were seeking to help D.C. Acting Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson and other school chiefs across the country who might face similar challenges. “They need to make sure they have a culture that is safe for all of their students,” Ali said.
(Chicago Tribune) — A Cook County jury convicted a South Side man Tuesday night in the infamous murder of Derrion Albert, a Fenger High School sophomore whose videotaped beating sparked a national debate on youth violence. The jury of nine men and three women deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours before finding Silvonus Shannon, 20, guilty of first-degree murder. The verdict was announced in Circuit Judge Nicholas Ford’s courtroom about 9:30 p.m. The verdict marked the second conviction in the high-profile murder case. Last month a 15-year-old boy was found delinquent in juvenile court. Three other defendants, all charged as adults, await trial.
Nationwide, the conversation on education is increasingly dominated by teacher accountability, charter schools and test scores. While these things are critical, we cannot forget about the numerous hazards that many African-American students face in their communities as they pursue an education. We must remember that school is much more than just what happens inside brick and mortar buildings. What happens outside is equally, if not more, important and deserving of attention. As we ramp up our discussion of what needs to happen inside schools, we cannot forget about a hazard Black youth often face: violence in their communities.
I recently sat in on a meeting with African youth in Harlem. These high school students are part of the Achieving Leadership’s Purpose (ALP) program and had just finished watching part of the documentary “Eyes on the Prize” which traces the Civil Rights Movement. They listened to the gut wrenching recollections of the Emmitt Till story, which many have never heard about. When they were asked to reflect, student after student suggested, “It was just something small that got him killed.”I was ready for them to follow up and suggest times had changed, but they did not follow that path. One student said, “You know the thing today is that we still die over the little stuff, just today it doesn’t even have to be [at the hands of]White people.” Quickly the conversation shifted to testimonies of violence.
Student after student recounted the violence they commonly experience: siblings shot out of mistaken identity, students being shot at for greeting their old friends who had dropped out of school, witnessing fights that escalated for little reason, etc. Their painful tales were sobering. If we are to reform education, we must also work at transforming the neighborhoods that surround schools.
Last fall, the internet went abuzz with images of Derrion Albert in the west side of Chicago getting beaten to death. Albert, an honor student – much like many of the students in the ALP program- was not immune to the hazards of high crime neighborhoods. While violent crimes have continued to trend down nationally, there is still considerable room for improvement. Many cities like Chicago and Philadelphia remain saddled with troubling escalations of violence. As sociologists Carla Shedd and Nikki Jones have demonstrated, it is not just boys who experience violence and unsafe neighborhoods, girls are equally in hazardous situations.
Whether as a participant, being a victim of it or having to deal with the psychological trauma of witnessing it, our children remain underserved in this area. A serious challenge is preparing youth to deal with violence whether it is in the neighborhood or inside their households.
The US Department of Justice estimates that 87 percent of inner-city high school youth have been exposed to violence in school within the last year. This type of persistent exposure to violence contributes to the stress students feel, the grades they earn, and whether they choose to continue with their education. Recently the Schott Foundation reported staggeringly low graduation rates for Black boys. If we are interested in curbing these drop-out rates, we have multiple challenges to tackle. Psychologists at University of Wisconsin–Madison and Brown University found that if school staff and other interventions can raise youth’s feeling of familial and peer support it could nullify the effects of exposure to violence. We cannot just stop at creating strong families; we must also explore innovative models that are targeted at reducing youth violence and increasing sense of self and community.
Thinking seriously about what Black youth have to deal with involves acknowledging that great schools should not just target basic academic skills but also keeping our children’s whole development in mind. Physical safety must be our concern if we are concerned with nurturing the mind. As the national debate rages around what constitutes a “good” school; it is important to remember that a “good” school in a “bad” neighborhood faces a challenge that most suburban and non-urban schools do not. The special challenge of educating Black youth in urban areas is one that we can all participate in, if we realize that it is going to take more than going to class to help our youth.
R. L’Heureux Lewis is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at the City College of New York – CUNY. His research concentrates on issues of educational inequality, the role of race in contemporary society, and mental health well-being. He blogs regularly at www.uptownnotes.com and you can follow him on twitter @dumilewis