Saturday Mailbox


April 19, 2008

Stop tolerating school disruptions

When a student physically attacks a teacher and his or her immediate administrator blames the teacher for the assault, saying that the teacher used a target word or facial expression to provoke the assault by a student, everyone in the community should be appalled ("Attack highlights 'chronic problem,'" April 13).

When school safety "experts" say that teachers need to be taught how to deal with these situations, the community should be outraged.

A teacher's job is to impart knowledge, not to police the actions of unruly, disrespectful, violent students.

As soon as a teacher realizes that a student is being defiant and can no longer be controlled within the classroom, that teacher should be able to get support immediately from a school administrator.

The reasons why this kind of school violence is happening today are way too complex to admit of one simple answer.

Some students come to school without having learned respect for others or without a desire to learn.

Some students know that they can get away with extremely negative behavior because they are aware that their school has a weak administration.

Some students have not learned the correct way to solve problems.

But what about the teachers and students who want to teach and learn?

The school system cannot directly change the home and neighborhood environments that create these uncooperative, violent students.

But it can choose administrators who set clear rules, establish consequences for not following those rules and make every student and teacher aware of the rules.

Karen W. Gronau, Perry Hall

The writer is a retired teacher for the Baltimore County public schools.

As an educator with 34 years of experience in the Baltimore public schools, I applaud the dialogue and suggested solutions from national and local educators, politicians and community leaders regarding the recent outbreaks of school violence in our schools.

But it is critical that while suggestions such as educational summits are being planned, the powers-that-be collectively move quickly to implement solutions to safeguard our teachers and students.

I recommend that we quickly implement 21st-century communications vehicles that will immediately bring safety to our schools.

In this age of wireless technology, every teacher should be equipped with a pager-like alarm that would enable that teacher to be in constant communication with school police and hall monitors in the event of an emergency.

Parents, guardians and students must receive ongoing clear and focused administrative directives outlining expectations for student behavior and the legal consequences of misbehavior.

It is imperative that central office communications liaisons be assigned to schools to educate and assist school personnel in crisis management.

Overall, the driving force in fixing violent mayhem in our schools is the development and implementation of an inclusive communications process among teachers, students, parents, union officials, school personnel, the central office and community stakeholders.

Sharon Blake, Baltimore

The writer is a teacher in the Baltimore schools and a former president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

It is so appalling to read about the violence in our schools. It should make us look deeply into this serious problem and take the necessary steps to stop it ("Attack highlights 'chronic problem,'" April 13).

The first thing we need to do is find a way to enforce a zero tolerance policy and do so quickly.

Going to school is a privilege, and if a child is going to continually act in a disruptive way, we need to get that child out of school and into a job or the military service.

When I was a child growing up in the 1950s, it would have been unthinkable for me to talk back to a teacher, let alone strike one. I could imagine the police coming to the school and taking me to jail and my parents, as well as the whole community, being shocked at such behavior.

I would have been punished and ashamed of what I had done. But today, such violence seems instead to be glorified and put on YouTube. That is absolutely sick.

When is enough enough?

We all need to take responsibility and do our part to stop the violence - parents, grandparents, legislators, teachers, principals and the whole community.

Perhaps we need to think about going back to those good old days of respect and discipline and about how to get back to those times and get there fast.

Lynn Pakulla, Ellicott City

Wind decision protects posterity

Gov. Martin O'Malley's recent announcement of his decision to protect Maryland's public lands from industrial wind development came from the heart ("Wind farms to be barred," April 12).

Standing before a breathtaking early spring view of the Monroe Run vista and addressing about 200 Garrett Countians, the governor spoke eloquently about his stewardship obligations for passing down such natural beauty to our posterity - our children and our children's children.

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