Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cleveland School Shootings: One Week Later

The initial commotion over last week's shootings at Success Tech has begun to settle down, and the district is beginning to implement a new security plan. Students are back in the classroom, and things are once again feeling like business as usual.

The main differences affecting the staff and students in our building are the new bans on book-bags in classrooms, the increased implementation of lock-outs and hall-sweeps, and the relocation of a security guard from the second floor to a desk by the main entrance.

My students seem to be in agreement that a metal detector in the building would not be much of a deterrent to any student who was intent upon bringing a weapon into the school. There are too many entrances (at least 15) and easily accessible first floor windows. These would be almost impossible to control, especially if there was more than one student determined to enact a vendetta type of confrontation. Every one of the kids in my morning class told me they had already figured out a way to smuggle something into the building if a metal detector was brought in, and quite frankly, it wasn't much of a challenge. One boy said there was probably more to fear from an assailant out in the parking lot than inside the building anyway.
Good observation, I thought.

One point of discussion the kids raised was the fact that in all of the school shooting cases where the shooter was a student, there were plenty of signals and even warnings, that were ignored or not taken seriously.
A twelfth grade boy said, "It's hard enough to make the decision to snitch, but then, when you do tell a teacher or a principal, and they act like they can't be bothered with your stupid stuff, it makes you not want to talk to any of the adults, 'cuz they 'll just blow you off."

The conversation then morphed into a gripe session about teachers; which ones they could talk to, who they could trust, who was fake, who liked to get kids in trouble, who was mean, who really seemed like they cared.
I just listened.

Often times teachers and administrators try to avoid gripe sessions, claiming they are unproductive. I think the real reason administrative leadership dislike gripe sessions, is because these discussions point out problems, and many administrators don't like to hear about problems...because, god forbid, they might have do something about them. It is easier to pretend that everything is "great".

If you want to know what the problems are, you need to pay attention when people talk, especially when they complain. Any leader who says they are tired of hearing complaints, should start dealing with the issues. Problems don't go away when you pretend they don't exist.

If there is any lesson the Cleveland school administrators should take away from last weeks tragedy, it should be that communication needs to be a two way effort. If you are going to ask people to talk to you, you need to pay attention to what they have to say. Success Tech parents complained about the lack of security guards, and they were ignored. Students tried to discuss a troubled classmate with the principal, she was too busy to talk.

This year Dr. Sanders added a new page, called "Talk to the CEO", to the official CMSD website. Billed as a community forum, the page only allows comments of 100 words or less to be typed at the bottom of the page, but none of them are published for public viewing. Nor is there any format available for the writer to receive a response to his comment. The term forum is defined as a medium of open discussion or expression of ideas. How is this a forum? The CEO "hot-line" allows you to leave a voice mail. I wonder if he (or anyone) ever returns calls?

What's the point in talking if there's nobody listening?

1 comment:

B E Diczhazy said...

Great post. I just left a comment on BFD about this issue. You are so right about communication. The key to success is listening to the students concerns and then coming up with a plan based on their input.