We Thought Schools Were Safe
Going through the previous week’s articles, I realized that I can write about some pretty sobering, almost depressing, topics…. Not exactly the kind of thing that motivates an audience to keep coming back to read a weekly blog. I was encouraged to write something a bit more uplifting, try to remind the reader that the world is a good place, that there is hope to make a difference and make it safer. Convince the world that things are getting better. I had someone even recommend to me to make a “Top Ten List”….
“Those are the best blogs. People LOVE to read blogs that count down things. You should do one like ‘The Five Reasons Schools Are Safer Than They Were Twenty Years Ago’, or ‘The Ten Things To Remember When You Feel Like The World Is Dangerous’…. “
Sure, why not? It’s important to remind people that their efforts make a difference. Our communities are not in danger, and our children are safe in their schools. I can’t support proactive security concepts without a positive message, right?
Then I read about Amy Joyner-Francis, and everything changed.
Last Thursday morning, just before class started, 16-year-old Amy stopped into her high school bathroom at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, Delaware. While there, she was attacked by a gang of female students, a gang of sorts, and brutally assaulted. The fight stemmed from something about a boy, and the results were Amy’s head being bashed into the porcelain sink. As the attack occurred, other students watched on and recorded the incident with their camera phones.
Amy Joyner-Francis died from head wounds resulting from the attack.
Sorry, no peppy “top ten list” this week.
Amy was a very popular student, the captain of the school’s wrestling team and widely known as a pacifist and counselor to others. Students and teachers remembered her as typically being the person who would deescalate a situation. Additionally, she had plans to attend college. Her father released a statement saying the following: “I thought schools were safe…. I think this is a dream and I am trying to wake up. All I know is my daughter is gone. She was the love of my life and it hurts.” He later added, “I thought that the schools were a safe place that you could drop your kids off and they would come home after school, but apparently that’s not the case with some of the schools now. The children are out of control.”
To be perfectly candid, you have blinders on to the world if you think that things are getting better in our schools, they’re not. Go to your children’s school website, and find information on what they are doing about stopping bullying in their halls. You’ll probably find a PDF form or a report notification of some kind to inform the school that your child is being victimized. From there, I have every confidence that the school will take appropriate action: They will probably contact the student and the student’s parents; try to figure out an acceptable means to resolve the conflict….
And yet, it goes on. Children are harassed every day, humiliated, tormented in such a way as to effect them well into their adulthood. Sometimes, they lash out and come to school one day with a gun seeking vengeance, sometimes they take it out on themselves. Sometimes they’re attacked and murdered in the high school bathroom.
I commend the schools for their efforts in recognizing the issue and further making effort in trying to make sure it doesn’t continue. But intentions and results are two different things. When it comes to results, the anti-bullying strategies aren’t working. It’s that simple.
If a group of teenagers were walking down the street together and they came across a stray dog, and one of the kids walked up and kicked the dog as hard as he/she could, do you think that the other kids would allow that? Most likely, no. They would yell at their friend, maybe even make him/her stop with their own physical action. But when a peer is treated the same way in school, the solution is to pull out cell phones, take pictures or record the incident. Why?
It’s the culture. It’s a culturally learned condition. PDF forms, anti-bullying campaigns… these appease the adult teacher and parent, they don’t get to the culture of student. Until we teach that bullying is as taboo as kicking a helpless dog, then we will continue to see tragedies like those that occurred with Amy Joyner.
Add that to your top ten list.
Jason Wells is the President and Founder of the National Advancements for Proactive Safety, an educational non-profit organization committed to providing a safe community through intervention processes. He is a former Special Agent with the United States Secret Service, and holds a Masters of Science with highest honors in Strategic Security and Protection Management. Mr. Wells is currently pursuing his doctorate in Strategic Security with a focus on proactive interventions to stop threat-related behavior. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.