School Violence Prompts Tighter Security
Last week, in the wake of the murder of one student by another on school grounds and other incidents of violence, volunteer police reserve officers began patrolling 10 of Detroit's 22 high schools.
The officers, who are carrying firearms, were requested by Superintendent of Schools Arthur Jefferson. About 10 police reserve officers have been assigned to each school and will be stationed primarily outside the school buildings during peak travel hours to and from school, and are authorized to make arrests under the supervision of police officers, police officials said.
Last month, in the first of several moves designed to counter the upsurge of violent incidents in their schools, Detroit school of-ficials ordered "sweep" teams--security guards with metal detectors to check students for weapons--to begin patrolling city high schools. Officials also ordered students to wear identification tags when on school property.
"I do not intend on making our schools armed camps, but we do take seriously our responsibility to live in a real world, and we know there are things happening in our community that sometimes endanger human life," Jefferson said. "We believe a good school is a safe school."
In addition to the reserves, school officials say they will increase the number of students in the Junior Police Cadet Program, students who patrol five-to-10 block areas around schools.
Reserve officers receive about 15 hours of training in criminal law, city ordinances, first aid, and the use of fire arms.
The Detroit superintendent's announcement of added security measures for schools came as the American Federation of Teachers released the results of a survey of teachers suggesting that for those who work in large, urban districts the problem of school violence is widespread and growing. (See accompanying story on this page.)
Educators said last week that there is little national data on the degree to which the threat of violence is forcing districts to adopt more dramatic--and sometimes controversial--policing measures, but they agree that there is growing pressure on school officials to "beef up" security in schools where there is an obvious violence problem. That usually means, said Michael Casserly of the Council of Great City Schools, "enhanced hardware--guards and metal detectors."
Violence in Schools
The problem of violence in schools has also apparently attracted the attention of the White House. Informed Administration sources say it is "likely" that President Reagan within the next several weeks will instruct the Justice Department to "aggressively" seek federal court cases in which the Administration could side with teachers and school officials to increase their authority to discipline students. The President's "likely" action is based on a belief among Administration officials that federal court decisions have contributed to the school-discipline problem through rulings that weaken the authority of schools to handle disruptive students, Administration sources said.
This will be recommended to the President, along with other school-discipline initiatives, by a newly established White House "working group" on school discipline, the sources said. The group, comprising officials from the Justice and Education Departments and the Office of Management and Budget and chaired by Gary L. Bauer, deputy undersecretary of education, is expected to report to the President by the end of this month.
A plan is under consideration to provide Mr. Reagan with a short film outlining the dimensions of the discipline problem that will include interviews with teachers on the subject, the sources said.
Because the National Institute of Education's landmark 1977 study, Violent Schools--Safe Schools: the Safe School Study Report to the Congress, has not yet been updated or replaced by more current analyses, the only national information on recent trends in school violence has been supplied by the periodic teacher surveys of the National Education Association and the aft, which suggest that from teachers' perspective the level of violence has increased significantly in the past five years.
Attacks in Public Schools
The Violent Schools research indicated that about three-quarters of a million students were attacked in public junior- and senior-high schools each month; about 4 percent of those attacks were serious enough to require medical attention.
Attacks on teachers were not as common as attacks on students (about one-half of 1 percent said they had been physically attacked at school in a month's time), institute researchers found, but were almost five times as likely to result in injury that required medical treatment.
The results of the National Education Association Teacher Opinion Poll this year show that the number of reported physical attacks on teachers was at least 50 percent higher than before 1979, said Oliver C. Moles, a researcher at nie On the other hand, he pointed out, the Justice Department's National Crime Survey suggests that assaults against students have shown little change in the last few years and that both robberies and thefts decreased in 1980.
At the time of the Violent Schools study, 5 percent of the schools in large cities reported they had armed police stationed in schools.
In Rochester, N.Y., after a teacher was stabbed to death in class last winter by a 16-year-old student, school officials approved the purchase of a metal detector to prevent students from carrying weapons on school property.
In Las Vegas, after a teacher was killed last year when a 17-year-old student walked into his classroom and shot him through the chest, school officials began conducting searches with metal detectors.
And at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, after more than 12 students during a two-month period last year were suspended for possession of deadly weapons, the principal requested that security officers use portable metal detectors to search students.
But moves by district officials to turn to guards or weapons searches are not always viewed as constructive in the school and local communities, educators said last week.
Students at Thomas Jefferson High School staged a "mini-riot" last year when school security officers searched all students with hand-held metal detectors before they were allowed to enter the building. Hundreds of students stormed out of the school into the streets, where some threw rocks and bottles and yelled "Gestapo tactics," according to newspaper accounts.
Blizzard of 'Hostile' Reaction
In Cherry Hill, N.J., last month, when school officials announced that armed police officers would patrol the community's high schools, Mayor Maria Greenwald vetoed the plan, citing a blizzard of "hostile" reaction from parents. School officials had proposed using the armed guards, "not because of problems with the students," said Superintendent John McKeon, but because of administrative problems with maintaining a security staff.
The Rochester district also experienced problems with its security measures. The local American Civil Liberties Union said the searches were discriminatory because the metal detectors were only used on certain students; the school administration planned to screen only those students attending special classes for youths with past disciplinary problems--the classes that had been taught by the teacher who was killed.
Now, almost a year later, although the search program was approved, the metal detectors are not in use, school officials say.
And in Detroit, although school officials are reporting a favorable response to the increased security measures from teachers, parents, and students, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is in the process of developing a formal statement regarding the new practice of using teams of security guards with hand-held metal detectors to search students. Lawyers for the local aclu have questioned whether using the metal detectors violates students' Fourth Amendment Rights, said Howard Simon, executive director of the local group.
But broader than the legal question is the whole issue of the quality of the school environment, many educators suggest.
Although stringent security measures may be necessary to protect the lives of students and teachers, said Terri Allen-Hausmann, they only treat the "symptoms" of school violence.
Ms. Allen-Hausmann is a former staff member of the National School Resource Network, a two-year project of the U.S. Justice Department that was developed to help schools reduce the incidence of violence and vandalism.
"Increasing school security measures or taking other measures to reduce anxiety in the schools is important," Ms. Allen-Hausmann wrote in a recent issue of pta Today, "but these measures alone, without an examination of the greater problems, will not make schools safer and more positive environments. In fact, the same behaviors will repeat themselves, and perhaps with more vehemence, if the greater problems that the students may be responding to are not addressed."
Ms. Allen-Hausmann recommends student, parent, and community involvement in working toward the goal of a safe school.
Programs that can ameliorate a school violence problem, she said, include alternative education for students who have difficulties in traditional classrooms, peer counseling programs in which students are trained to counsel each other, and innovative curricula that respond to student needs and interests.
But talking about getting at the "root" problems is one thing, said Richard Levy, assistant to the superintendent in Detroit. "It's quite another thing when you're up against youth unemployment of 80 percent."
Thomas Toch and Correspondent Cassandra Spratling contributed to this report.
Vol. 03, Issue 11