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An MPR documentary about the proliferation of weapons in the schools and the tendency of young people to resort to violence as a way of solving problems. MPR reporters Dan Gunderson, Mark Zdechlik, Donna Nicholson and Kate Smith present various viewpoints from students, teachers, police, parents and others.

Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

I'm sure they're safe. First chamber is empty. This is a saint safe as well. This is a Beretta nine millimeter Anoka police officer at Edgeley as displaying for reporters guns and other weapons confiscated this year from students in the Anoka Hennepin School District the Smith & Wesson Model 66 stainless steel 357 Magnum officer a Glee is assigned to the Anoka schools. He says the three guns confiscated so far this year were stolen they were taken to school to be sold to other students.Third handgun is a Harrington & Richardson .22 caliber pistol. See if you'd lie also has with him an assortment of knives and two brass knuckles all taken to school by students. Anoka-hennepin is the state's third largest school district with nearly 30,000 students eglee says a Dozen guns were taken from students last year more serious. He says is what the guns reflect a rising level of violence in the schools.I'm going to take this off. This is a house key. Well, you know what the hospital said he was coming out of lunch with a friend he tripped and fell on his nose. That's what he's telling the hospital Burnsville police officer. Julian's Ahoskie is trying to track down details of a fight a student in the hospital with a broken nose is now claiming he fell they don't know how to argue. They don't know how to argue in a reasonable peaceful manner, you know their egos get on the line and they got to play it out and boom all of a sudden the punches fly, you know and girls to they don't know how to argue. They don't know how to State how they're feeling about something to someone else without getting into a knock-down drag-out officers a Huskies office is near the front door of Burnsville Senior High School. There have been a few instances of students bringing weapons to school but most of officers a Huskies time is spent sorting through incidents which started with verbal harassment or physical intimidation. A lot of school violence starts with sharp words members of rival groups or clicks Burrell insults at one another Fargo North High School principal Ed Raymond says in his school. It's common for groups to go to Separate Tables in the cafeteria were School Commons area Raymond says some of the exchanges are nothing more than teasing, but we have on the top of that, you know, we have the use of nigger kids openly called nigger in the Halls. We have the wide open use of all the homosexual terms Dyke faggot fag anyone you want sweets. Anyone you want to list there is some teasing but there's also the bitterness connected with it that we you know that we haven't seen before clothes are another starting point for violence in schools Gerry Dee Earth and administrative assistant at Apple Valley Senior High Recently stopped to dispute where the argument was over ownership of blue jeans. And basically that was one student saying to another student. I heard you had my jeans, you know, and the other students had no, I don't have your jeans or baseball cap or things like that. And really that's what we're dealing with one more on a day-to-day basis and kids get violent because they think someone has their baseball cap. Why is that a Junior High Assistant Principal Mark gags debtor says School fights these days are more intense. The combatants are more likely than in years past to want to harm one. Another lots of times kids would take a swing at each other and then pray that a teacher would come along so they could save face now there have been a few occasions where I've broken fights up were kids truly intend to hurt each other Julian's Ahoskie was a student at the school. She now serves as a Burnsville police officer when she started all of the grades kindergarten through senior were in the same building now, the building is a senior high. With nearly 2,000 students the other big change. The Husky says is the Brazen and bold attitude of the students the times now, it's like instant gratification. I want what I want and I want it right now and don't get in my way and I'm going to go after what I want and The end justifies the means period you know, and if I'm inconvenience the slightest and getting what I want I will get angry and I'll demand and you know, there is there is less tolerance, even for the slightest inconvenience. The rising level of violence in schools takes a toll on learning teachers. Say more students are more often bringing their attitudes and problems into the classrooms Curtis Rock an elementary school teacher from Foley and Central Minnesota says students bring to school the hurt and anger picked up at home. We don't just teach anymore. You are counselor. You're a parent. You're a babysitter everything that involves them outside the school involves us because they bring all of that with it. They're not old enough as adults are to leave the garbage outside of school and come to school with open minds and ready to learn they have to bring all that stuff with them and then as an educator, you have to learn how to help them through those things so that then they can open their minds to learn because math fractions aren't going to make any sense. If Mom and Dad are going through a divorce al-rahman a junior high teacher from Robbinsdale has been an educator for 33 years. He believes the changed attitude and behavior of students is copied from adults. They are much more challenging today. They see their parents challenging things. They see things being challenged on television. They reflect sometimes the violence that they see in society. I mean, I think that there's for some things around here. I see more insubordination That I have ever seen. I'm not like a little Hellraiser. I get Lippy I get really cocky with the teachers just it depends on what mood I'm in the attitudes of several st. Cloud and Burnsville students on school violence range from Defiance to authority to discuss with the disruption the violence causes if they tell me to go do something, you know, I tell them God Gave You legs go do it yourself, you know, it's like I'm not your slave and I don't know. I just I just don't appreciate where people are going to take advantage of others, you know, and teachers do that to kids. Once you get away with it, you know that you can do whatever you want. If they if they give up their power then you know, you have it. It's First impression is the only way you can get respect from people. I mean I again trouble every day every single thing from every teacher is probably one teacher that likes me and if they're going to hit me for no reason with that. I'm just going to grab that thing and I'm back in the head. I don't care if they bleed or nothing. I just slipped there laughing at him keep hitting them. People are more violent now that they were not like physically, I mean people get thrown around here or something but most of it's for fun and rarely is there like a real serious fight but the use of slang and you know terms I'm not going to say but I mean, I don't think I don't think they did that like ten years ago. I think I think they were lot stricter about stuff like that. Now one teacher and 35 kids the kids just sit there and talk and teach you try to talk in the kids won't even listen, you know, because it's just one teacher and I'm he can't really tell 35 kids what to do. In high school, you know, so I don't know. They just need to go sticker on the rules. He has a growing up and they don't think anybody can tell him anything have two kids that Mom. Don't even try to tell him. I'm his mom. Don't tell me what to do. What makes him think a teacher can tell many schools have responded to the rising level of Violence by increasing security all monitors equipped with two way radios watch the corridors security guards patrolled the school grounds. There are dress codes prohibiting the wearing of caps or jackets some big city schools and other parts of the country use metal detectors and body searches to confiscate weapons. No, Minnesota schools use metal detectors, but locked doors during the school day to ward off unwelcome visitors are common many communities have assigned police officers to schools. The peaceful atmosphere during class change time at North High School in Minneapolis is due in part to the increased security police officer. Riley Gilchrist has been assigned to the school for eight years. Primarily. We are I don't run. Primarily, we just watch Outsiders and what what happens in so many of the schools I don't care where you were at your suburban schools your city schools. It's The Outsiders it come in as a kids that are drop out from your your school program is the kids that come over from other schools who are skipping classes that go come over here to North High because they're Buddies go here. And that's the problem. We have the 6 foot 4 inch Gilchrist is like a human Watchtower his eyes range up and down the North High hallway near the locked front door many of the students make eye contact smile and say hello Gilchrist is black pants shirt and shoes are topped with a boldly colored necktie a great checked sport coat nearly covers. The Minneapolis police officers gleaming badge on his belt Gilchrist says students are more violent in school because adults aren't paying attention when you got punished at school your parents were notified right away. And you hated to get have your parents know that you were disciplined in school because You got home and you get disciplined again. I think there's too much TV for kids nowadays. There's too many violent movies. There's too much violence on TV. The kids think bleed not only kids are adults who believe what they see on TV and believe that's the real world. A teenage pimp turn students against teacher and cop against cop. Did you hear what they said one dead one wounded don't you care about your men on the next Hunter tonight attention until a Madman took it away. He's a control freak. He gets off on it Saturday Drabek infiltrates a killer cult step for kids, but will he be program for murder? Raven Saturday Riley gilchrist's view that television programs Inspire violent behavior and young people is widely held James Garbarino a Child Development specialist believes the effects of violent messages in the media find their way into schools. Garbarino is president of the chicago-based Erickson Institute. I'm of the belief although I can't prove it yet that some of the media images that children see now really are traumatic independently the Freddy Krueger's The Nightmare on Elm Street, the Halloween those sorts of movies have the potential to traumatize children and set in motion a whole problem whole series of problems that come to roost in the school problems of concentration problems of violence problems of kind of bad vibrations throughout but Garbarino says blaming the media for all of the violence in schools is too simple. He and University of California sociologist Elliot Curry agreed that violence among young people is often a response to tough times at home or the symptom of some other problem. If a kid is not interested in that stuff in the first place are not going to be turned on by it just because it's there. There are plenty of reasons why we have kids who are interested in violence as a way of proving their status developing some kind of sense of identity some kind of sense of individuality in a society that offers him decreasing opportunities to do that in legitimate ways adults have always worried about the messages their children are getting from popular culture for decades ago Elvis Presley's pelvic gyrations and greased back hair outraged some adults, who were sure the image and words would lower impressionable or social youth to their destruction song lyrics about lust getting drunk and general rowdiness are still around but there are other hate-filled messages in music these days racism sexism and self-destruction are disquieting themes in songs by groups such as Guns and Roses. Sociologist Elliot Curry believes that the message has caused some young people to commit acts of violence, but he believes other factors play a bigger role when he studied California's sharply Rising population of juvenile delinquents in the late 1980s Curry found attitude similar to those held by rebellious young people through the years in this country to differences stand out one is the easy access to guns. The other Curry says is that some young people have no hope for a legitimate job thus increasing the chance that they'll look to Crime as a way to earn money. But violence in schools is also committed by young people who appear to have everything Riley Gilchrist says some of the violence in schools can be explained by the pressure on young people regardless of their economic class. These kids are under more pressure than you and I had when we were growing up. I just keeping up with the Joneses. And that puts a lot of pressure on a young male and young female today plus trying to get a job to have a little pocket change in their pocket gay Rosenthal a psychologist and mother of two teenagers thinks everyone is under more pressure these days. She sees the toll it has taken on families when they come to her office at the Minneapolis Children's Hospital learning and behavior problems Clinic when we get home from work at 6:00 in the evening. It's not homework as usual like it used to be 25 years ago. It takes a lot these days for parents to come home get dinner on the table structure a quiet home work environment for children to to attack the work at the end of the day kids often get up earlier than they used to they often stay up later than they used to people are working with less sleep and we are expecting a great deal from parents from schools from kids without the resources for the team to work. Well together. Rosenthal says some young people who misbehave act up. Turned violent in school have psychological problems others haven't had good adult supervision at critical times in their life. No adult has told him that they have stepped over the line kids today have a wonderful sense of what's fair a wonderful sense of equality and fairness. Not that they expect to be treated like adults, but they certainly expect to be treated like human beings and so it's no longer where the adults you do it because we say so except under rare emergencies where safety is an issue children can learn to reason if they're taught to reason they can learn to be fair if they're taught fairness Madison is one of our 13 kids stop sites at about a hundred and twelve kids here today teaching young people to be fair to solve problems to be respectful of others is part of the prescription for curbing violence in the school. There are parents and teachers who try to impart those values to children, but many young people aren't getting the message. David Barker to Father believes. There's no substitute for adults spending time with kids if it can't be his time or a teacher's and it has to be another responsible adult cartoons on one side and we'll have art and stuff on the other side and Bourget is director of the st. Cloud Boys and Girls Club his agency operates an after-school program for more than 800 children in st. Cloud Elementary Schools every day after class. The children had for an activity in their building art reading and Athletics are supervised by adults for many kids. The alternative is TV at home while waiting for Mom and Dad to return from work Beauregard says the number of families moving to st. Cloud each year includes over 300 children about half the enrollment of an average-sized elementary school of all those kids moving in a lot of them tend to come from more needy families not just economically but oftentimes the move to st. Cloud. Is the result of a failed business a failed Farm lost employment the breakup of a family and Mom Luke moves with her kids to the larger area where the university is and the technical college and as a result, we're seeing an influx of a larger percentage of what we'd call higher needs kids than we might expect in the population in general last year the st. Cloud Boys and Girls Club started a more intensive effort to reach older kids 26 year old youth worker Troy Fritz works with young people who are considered at risk. They don't get along with their parents. He says, so they're looking for a connection with someone else the majority that I see or that I run into that look like the hoodlum types or whatever. Those are kids. You just have to go in and you have to find out what their personalities about you have to find out what makes them tick and you know for me, sometimes it takes six months to get that acceptance before they'll trust me before they'll realize I realize that I'm an honest person and then I'm fair and and but once you can get through that barrier You can start making some differences. And then what you need to do is show them that you're concerned shown that that you care for them and then start showing them some alternative things that they can do to to get involved in a positive way and help their community and investment of six months to reach a young person is expensive not spending the time and money David Bourget argues is the equivalent of ignoring the country's infrastructure. He says there is more attention being paid to the problem of violence among young people because of some of the lurid accounts in the media, but Beauregard says when he seeks contributions, it's still clear that people are denying that Solutions cost money. I haven't had anybody tell us were full of crap or that were way off base with this whole thing but a lot of them listened patiently and almost patronizingly and Nod politely and then go about their business is though what we've just told them doesn't exist taxpayers and lawmakers often View school as the place to address the problems of Youth if it's drug use create a drug avoidance program. If it's teen pregnancy start a clinic if it's violence create an anti-violence curriculum one reason these problems are more visible in schools. Today is because in this country every young person has a legal right to an education the Child Development specialist James Garbarino says 50 years ago expulsion was how schools dealt with young people who were a problem. It's only since World War Two that we seriously attempted to keep everybody in high school until graduation and we reached a peak level of high school graduation old late 60s that about 80% there are many more young people in school than ever before a much higher percentage of them stay in school. And the number of kids in school buildings is often much larger than the buildings were designed to accommodate. Garbarino believes the number of students in a typical public school is a factor in the level of violence or bad behavior in schools research done in the 1960s. I think was quite persuasive that small high schools do a better job of involving motivating and controlling High School aged students that students feel more part of the school. They are more active and as a result, they behave more responsibly that research said that was particularly true of academically marginal students the students who unless they're pulled in will drop out Garbarino says the research shows that schools with 500 or fewer students have a much better chance of reaching marginal students or controlling violence in 1955 half of the schools in this country had enrollments of 500 or under 20 years later Garbarino says by 1975 school size had tripled the average enrollment was 1500. Garbarino points out that schools have traditionally been violent places, but the violence came from adults. It was directed at students the belt the cane the Board of Education are all gone from public schools these days but other traditional discipline measures are still used in an attempt to curb violence or bad behavior. There is still suspension and detention the threat of being kicked off a team a call by the principal to the parents a Stern warning from a teacher to shape up. The techniques have an effect on some students expelling a student still happens, but most students are expelled to alternative education programs these days Frank Wharton a counselor for 23 years at st. Paul Central High School has fewer options for diverting young people for instance hit Central used to have a school within a school. There was a great program. I thought it was a great program until it was sort of gutted and then it was no longer successful and it was cut but it was primarily Financial. We used to have five or six work coordinators. We have one work coordinator and one special ed work coordinator when we used to have maybe four or five regular Ed special, you know, if they get kicked out of school, they can be kicked into something else every year in Minnesota hundreds of students kicked out of regular classes because of behavior problems are sent to schools where they have much less freedom in this is in the level one problem solving it served mostly as just a time away from class time for the students is to settle down and get themselves back in on track. Howard doll is the principal at Oak Grove a public school in the Mounds View District. The school is for troubled or violence-prone students for many young people. It's the last Public School option before Juvenile Detention when all other remedies for curbing the actions of a violent or disruptive student have been exhausted School District officials can try to find a slot for the student in a school like Oak Grove. A floor hockey game in the Oak Grove gym Burns off some energy for a boy will call Bill and half a dozen other young men before coming to Oak Grove bill and the others had been in neighboring Suburban Twin City Schools. I just flew around that pay attention in class goofing off at first it was kind of shocked with the not it's still here like it here. If you'd watch Pretty closely. Now you get PSI problem solving one problem solving to impound 73 like promising ones that form in a Timeout to is you get to go for 15 minutes then process on three is three hours and I assess There are 85 young people at Oak Grove. It's called a level-5 school in Minnesota. There are a total of 2,500 students in level five programs class sizes range from five to eight students per teacher in a regular Public School broom classes range from 25 to 45 with a teacher having as many as six different classes a day. Most of the students at Oak Grove stay a year or two then return to their home District the cost for a student in a level five program is nearly $10,000 a year two to three times the cost for a student in a regular classroom, but about half the cost of a year in a state prison and about a third the cost of a stay at a mental health center. The rising level of school violence hits many districts at a time when money to create options or alternative education programs is tight. The bind has enhanced the popularity of mediation or conflict resolution the table that we work at we have four chairs here mediations can go with bigger people can big or bigger problems Minneapolis Patrick Henry High School student. John Brown is a mediator the problems. He helps students talked out or relatively harmless sounding to Outsiders, but they are often the stuff of school fights if left to Fester, they'll be like, you know, you do something wrong you did wrong to me and everything like that and the other person they just got their feelings hurt and they feel they feel upset about and they feel mad too and they want to go after them. So I mean, yes, most of them are feeling problems, but some of them can someone can be physical some come out of school summer about boyfriend-girlfriend friend the theft anything the student mediators have a list of rules. No interruptions both sides tell Story The mediators don't take sides. So then we get to the rice number part where we ask them. How can they sell their problem when they work out their agreement? We write it down on the sheet and we have the sheet on record. We actually asked them as it's fair balanced and workable and if they agree to that then we might ask what if you know, this problem doesn't work out then they might you know, they might want to come back for another mediation or something like that. The three-year-old mediation program at Henry High in Minneapolis struggled at first some students were apparently put off that all the mediators were from the Honor Society. The pool was expanded Jason Lee another student mediator says now students know that some of the mediators have personal experience with the problems. They're asked to here and a kind of balance it out a lot and made the mediation class work better because a person who's never have problems. They're not going to be able to relate to anyone's problems and with them having the problems and been in it before they're able to talk it out with them and work things out. Mediation was started at Henry High School as a reaction to a crisis teacher Jackie Hansen says suspensions because of fighting were Rising rapidly. Since mediation Hansen says the number of fights has been cut in half the success of mediation is measured by the willingness of students to talk about their differences rather than fight using that measure Hansen says mediation is a success 90% of the time the principal still steps in if a dispute can't be solved suspension still occur. Henson says that will always be a Band-Aid solution. Certainly it will stop the behavior right then. I don't think suspending solves any problems. It might take them out of the building or take them away from each other for a while and we always tell students. It's okay to move away from each other and avoid a situation when you're highly angry, but that when your anger has D escalated that you need to get back together and sit face to face and figure out what the problem really was and some solution so that you can survive in the same building and get your education the students in Jackie Henson's mediation class travel to other school districts in Minnesota to train students and teachers in the The most Ardent supporters of mediation insist that students can use the skill in their lives beyond School sociologist Elliot Curry says the technique treats a symptom not the problem if these programs do a good job of educating kids about the dangers of violence about alternative ways. They can express their anger in a number of things that these programs can do. Well, that's great. But beyond that we also have to deal with the very real conditions of life that so many young people particularly in the inner cities have got to deal with on the outside that make violence attractive to them Curry predicts that more violence will continue to spill into the schools from the outside easy access to guns and uncertain economic future for young people more stress at home are all contributing factors. The voice of optimism belongs to James Garbarino. He's best known among other child development Specialists for his study of how War affects children Garbarino has visited War zones around the world for his research and has seen the lives of adults and children reduced to sorting through Rubble. He thinks with all of our resources in this country. We can do better. I have no right to be anything other than optimistic from my experiences and visiting maybe 15 or 20 War zones around the world and seeing just how bad things can get for people. I think Americans have no right to be whining and complaining that we don't have the resources that we don't know how to do it. We have the resources to make this happen. We certainly have the financial resources. I think if we would put our minds to it we have the cultural resources to do this the most the greatest impediment we could face would be a kind of defeatism that says there's 20 30 % of the It's in our society who can't learn who won't learn we have to start from the premise that every single kid in the society can be a success and and judge ourselves against that otherwise, we're just caving into a very convenient and cozy kind of pessimism to which we have. No, right.


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