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Making Sense of Teen Violence

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, April 10, 2008 12:28 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Violence, Teen Violence, Bullying

Rosalind Wiseman commenting on NPR about the Lakeland teen violence

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IMAGE SOURCE: Rosalind Wiseman web site

 

This may be “The Story” where people around the country say enough is enough.

That from Rosalind Wiseman, author of the best-selling book, Queen Bees and Wannabes, which was the basis for the movie Mean Girls.  Wiseman coaches teachers, school systems with the Owning Up™ program, teaching kids to speak about social injustice and recognize the group dynamic that can lead to social cruelty and violence among young people.

Wiseman appeared on National Public Radio Wednesday to comment on the Lakeland cheerleader girl violence videotape intentionally captured to put on YouTube.

Wiseman doesn't like to blame videos or music for the escalating lack of civility in our society, but she asks parents to look at the words their kids are using to text message each other.

“Not everybody else’s kid but your kid” she says to the host. 

“I don’t get over the shock of the brutality and the lack of civility that kids can have and I never get over the shock of a parent saying it can’t be my kid or if it is my kid,  somebody else made them do it or they had a good reason to do it,” Wiseman says.

Verbal and physical abuse is a part of junior high and high school life and Wiseman says it can easily escalate into a need to put someone in their place.

Reality shows are giving our young people a skewed view of life she believes.  When people are pitted against each other Wiseman says, they are being shown acting in their lowest common base way.

“So what it's doing is normalizing that disgusting way of interacting with each other so kids think that is normal and it’s funny."

Parents, as anyone might expect, are part of the problem she tells NPR. So many parents shy away from technology, from texting to social networks. Couple that with a “kids will be kid’s attitude and many children are going without a guide. I

As to the Lakeland cheerleader violence, Wiseman says violence in packs is not unusual, especially among kids who are in a high social hierarchy in school. And often kids from a higher socio-economic bracket think that the rules don’t apply to them.

In her coaching to students, Wiseman reminds them that reporting violence or bullying is not the same as tattling.  Reporting means that change can be brought about while tattling just is launched to get someone in trouble.

School bullying verbal and violence is preventable. All it takes is one adult intervening and that can happen at any level.  Perhaps it’s a school psychologist who gets it and can communicate with kids, or a principal who wants to be proactive and work with parents.  One adult working with kids can make a difference.

The Safe School Ambassadors Program has trained 18,000 kids to be good will ambassadors in 400 schools around the country to intervene in anti-social behavior before it escalates.

On the positive side, Wiseman says more principals than ever are calling on coaches to help schools decipher the impact of the internet on their school culture before someone brings in a gun, sets fire or blows something up.

“I’ve seen a lot of principals say I’ve got to get a handle on this so I think we are turning the boat around a tiny bit.”

Wiseman recommends, if a child is acting out violently first – model good behavior they can follow. Then say “I’m so disappointed in you” followed by taking away their lines of communication, cell phones, texting, computers. Absolutely do not let a child have a cell phone in their bedroom she says, unless you want them up all night.  Then take away a privilege that they value the most.  Don’t cave on the consequences, she warns.   Lastly, make it clear the sort of behavior that would make you proud.

 The worst thing a parent can do?

“What parents do first and foremost is they seem to figure out a way to excuse their children’s behavior. And that act stops us from addressing this behavior or problems like it."  #


3 Comments

Posted by Laura Collins
Thursday, April 10, 2008 9:24 AM EST

Truancy: The root of all school safety problems! by Dale Yeager

“No child falls through the cracks. They are dropped through or shoved through by lazy, emotionally immature adults and unethical professionals”

After the Columbine shootings I made this statement during an interview on national television. The reporter asked if I really believed that statement and I replied, “absolutely!”

But you may ask what this statement has to do with the issue of truancy? Simple, truant children – who are routinely late or absent – come from dysfunctional homes. Those homes in my experience are lead by caregivers who are more concerned about their own pleasures and convenience than the welfare of their children. Some may say that this is an unkind assessment. My response to them is simple, visit these homes and you will see that this is not an aberration.

While some caregivers have a difficult time because of poverty, work schedules or transitioning to a single parent household; the majority simply refuse to exercise self control or basic order in their homes.


And this assessment is supported by various national studies. Research from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education have found that child neglect and family disorganization are major factors in truancy. The OJJDP also found that “Truancy has been clearly identified as one of the early warning signs of students headed for potential delinquent activity, social isolation, or educational failure via suspension, expulsion, or dropping out.”
More disturbing is a document that I have used for many years in criminal profiling, the Juvenile Sex Offender Assessment Protocol (J-SOAP-II). In this well respected assessment tool, caregiver issues and truancy become connected as impetuses for teen sex offender development:

• Inconstant and instable caregivers before the age of 10. Multiple changes in caregivers and living situations.
• Chronic truancy, fighting with peers or teachers.

Dr Gerald Patterson sums up the issue this way, “Parenting plays a critical role in the development process of children. Early discipline failures are a primary casual factor in the development of conduct problems. Harsh discipline, low supervision, lack of parental involvement all add to the development of aggressive children”
Bullying, sexual harassment, negative behavior cliques and aggression towards staff are all done by children who come from dysfunctional homes. But beyond the home environment, schools have a big stake in controlling truancy. Not only is it a major part of NCLB compliance but it affects all school safety issues. The US DOE has tracked the following school issues that directly contribute to truancy.
• Lack of effective and consistently applied attendance policies.
• Poor record-keeping, making truancy difficult to spot.
• Teacher characteristics, such as lack of respect for students and neglect of diverse student needs.
• Unsafe environment, for example a school with ineffective discipline policies where bullying is tolerated. [5 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 skipped school because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school.]
Truancy happens in rural, suburban and urban schools and all classes of families. School must take control of their truancy problems or they are bound to be overtaken by it.

A well managed school is a safe school! LINK

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