Students hold workshops on stopping violence

October 04, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Tired of having petty quarrels, verbal abuse and fights interrupt the school week, about 250 students from Annapolis High School withdrew to Sandy Point State Park yesterday to ponder the problems and search for answers.

"People fight over words, boys, grudges, things that happened in the fifth grade," said Kim Smothers, a 17-year-old senior, shaking her head in disbelief.

She once did the same, she said, but she recognizes now that fighting "is mainly, and plainly, stupid."

Yesterday's workshops had just that point in mind.

Developed by the students, the workshops were aimed at getting students to make new friends, appreciate cultural diversity and to respect one another in an effort to find new ways to stop violence in school.

"We wanted to try to get to the solutions -- something each person can do to make school a safer and more positive place," said Vann Rolfson, president of the Student Government Association (SGA), which planned the workshops.

"We tried to get people to respect each other."

The problems became obvious after a spring survey on violence at Annapolis High.

"To our dismay, 90 percent of the students said they'd witnessed a violent act while in school," said Principal Joyce Smith.

"Thirty percent said they'd been victims and 20 percent admitted to being the aggressors in an act of violence. They think that's the way you're supposed to solve problems. When 60 percent said they'd be willing to work on a solution, we took them up on their offer."

Samples of violence at Annapolis High in recent years include fires in freshmen's lockers, tripping people, shouting, pushing, food fights, and verbal abuse.

"They'll say 'Your mother's a blank,' or 'You're ugly,' or 'You smell bad,' " said Josh Falk, a 17-year-old senior and SGA vice president.

The students decided to get one-third of the school's approximately 1,500 students involved in discussing the solution, and wait for the hope to spread.

"We wanted to see how much positive attitude and vibes went through the school after this," said the Rolfson youth.

Students were impressed and interested by the new approach and the willingness of adults to let them work out the solutions alone. Not one of the 250 at yesterday's session -- the second one to be offered -- wandered off around the park.

They willingly played name games, tied themselves into knots, practiced falling backward, trusting their classmates to catch them, tried to come up with ideas to make current discipline efforts more effective, and discussed what they could do to stop fights.

"Fifty percent of the problem in fights is other people getting involved, or stopping to watch," said one teen-age girl.

"I don't stop to watch and yell 'fight, fight, fight,' I just get to class as quickly as I can."

The brawl at Meade High School Friday, which ended with six students and a teacher treated at area hospitals, also worried Annapolis High students.

"There was a feeling of despair," recalled Ms. Smith. "They don't want that reputation for our school anymore.

"I'm so proud of them for finding the solution on their own."

The students, too, were pleased.

"With something like this, the school becomes more unified," said JaCina Stanton, a 15-year-old sophomore. "In school, you can't really talk to each other. This helps to get people communicating."

Young Rolfson, the SGA president, said he hopes the students at other schools will consider doing similar workshops -- and he hopes with the same effect he witnessed in the "trust falls" he practiced with other student leaders.

"Everyone felt closer, near on to a family," he said.

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