To Stop Kids from Killing Kids
What might the highly publicized suicide of a
Bullying by other teens is alleged to have driven
A few months earlier the world watched horrifying video of
Sadly, as anyone who has raised a teenager should know, they give up inside information about what's going on in their world about as easily as CIA agents give up nuclear secrets.
Yet studies of teen violence show that almost every school fight -- or worse -- is preceded by a "buzz," gossip that may go on for days without adults getting a clue. The key is to gain the confidence of young people in a culture that ranks "snitching" or anything that resembles it to be the height of un-coolness.
Fortunately some old schools are learning new tricks. One that recently impressed me was
There's the idealistic Principal
Part of the credit goes to an idealistic ex-con church leader who would be hard to make up if he didn't already exist: Minister
Stanfield's New Vision Youth Services provides youth advisers as mentors from the local community, available 24/7 to help youngsters work out problems ranging from academics to anger issues.
And, yes, there are the kids. Fifteen group homes feed into this one high school where almost 30 percent of the students are classified as having "special needs."
Several spoke to me with poignant candor about how the program helped them turn their lives around enough for them to help mentor other students. "I used to be angry all the time," said one senior. "I just wanted to fight. I'm still angry. But I'm learning to stay cool about the fighting."
Another key player in this movie is the outside facilitator,
What a difference better communications make. A key to the program's success is the youth advisers, who Woodson calls "antibodies," helping the main body fight off diseases. Their street knowledge, particularly of the families and neighbors where students live, is more important than academic credentials.
Still, applicants have to be screened with "FBI standards," as Woodson puts it. That's important. One scandal could sink the whole project. So far, most of the news about violence-free zones has been good, which certainly beats the other kind.
Available at Amazon.com:
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- What I Want for Mother's Day
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- To Stop Kids from Killing Kids
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- Secrets of a Girl Bully
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- Teen Violence: Senseless Rage Sparks Inexplicable Tragedy
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- Games for Building Better Family Bonds
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- Sick-day Strategies for Keeping Kids Entertained
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