Students Over Security

I read an article today about the education system in Chicago. The public school system in the city is in pretty tough shape. They’re stretched from each available end and angle, short on everything from funds to facilities, from schoolteachers to substitutes. The situation has faced gigantic waves of renovation over the years, to varying degrees of effectiveness in a given area but ultimately the state of the system and its schools remains low in all areas of concern.

The article specifically addressed a new approach to the issue of safety. The schools have suffered with record levels of violence, much from inside the student body. Many Chicago public schools battle gang affiliations and other factors that feed violent attitudes corrupting the educational environment. Typically, security personnel are increased, metal detectors are installed, stricter policies are enforced, and students are suspended and expelled for the breach of new rules.

What if, instead of building these barriers that inevitably have loopholes and soft spots, we deal with the violence as we deal with other people who struggle? The way I read it, there was a realization that we’re not debating whether a loaded gun, when the trigger is pulled, can lodge a bullet in someone’s skull. I can.  No one is trying to say that a face scraping against a hall locker won’t bleed. It will.  But we’re coming to a place where we’re willing to deal with the cause of the effects. The people from whom the violence flows.  And they – don’t have to.

The money in these new programs is being spent, not on security measures, but on counselors and psychiatrists. The ratios between full-time social workers and students are being reduced to give reasonable estimates of how much time adults can spend with children and young adults in need of counsel. Students are being dealt with on a reward-based system, instead of a punishment-only system. They are rewarded as a group for days that the school goes without a fight, and rewarded as individuals when they act as peacemakers, breaking up fights and calming down peers. 

The switch to what is being considered such an innovative system seems to me the difference between dealing with the issue and dealing with the people behind the issue. Now, we’re deciding to work with the people, and it just may work. I’m delighted to see a different approach, since very little results were being produced from the money spent on bulk security. I wonder if this idea of personal reform can be beneficial outside just the Chicago Public School system.

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