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Study on Weapons at LAUSD Schools

March 30, 1997

Re "14% of Students Have Carried Weapons to School, Study Says," March 10: The three most important features of the study were neglected.

First, the recent report is unique because it offers the students' point of view. Collaboratively, a team of faculty, students and staff from USC, the ACLU and Cal State L.A, managed to secure a large sample (1,802 students) representative of the LAUSD population.

Secondly, our central conclusion is that high school students in L.A. are exposed to incredible amounts of violence--most of it outside of the school environment. Of the 14% of students indicating that they have brought a weapon to school, the main reasons included "protection from gangs" (39.4%) and protection when traveling to and from school (29.5%), compared to needing protection in school (14%).

The third major point overlooked so far is in response to the question: "What can be done about violence in and surrounding our schools?" The students clearly rejected reliance on metal detectors as a solution--63.6% say these detectors do not serve as a deterrent. Topping the list of problems influencing violence in and around schools were: gangs, racial tensions, miscommunication between individuals and difficulty in resolving conflicts. Forty percent said that conflict-resolution instruction would help reduce violence, 45.8% said classes in race/cultural sensitivity would reduce violence.

We feel it is the 86% of students surveyed who don't bring weapons to school who should be the focus of attention. They are calling for a safer world; courses in communication skills, conflict resolution and sensitivity should become part of the curriculum in Los Angeles.

MICHAEL CODY

DANIEL COCHECE DAVIS

Annenberg School for

Communication, USC

* The study's subtitle emphasizes "the violence surrounding our schools." Indeed, schools are part of the community. But as teachers and administrators our chief task is to do everything possible to block that violence at the school door.

The study itself concludes that students generally "see their schools as safe havens and comparatively safe environments."

Evidence that the LAUSD's zero-tolerance policy against carrying guns to school is producing positive effects may be found in the following figures comparing the last six months of 1995 with the same period for 1996. The number of guns apprehended on campus dropped dramatically, from 42 in 1995 to 25.

Several key factors have contributed to improved safety, including use of metal detectors; increased vigilance by teachers, other school staff, students and parents; adoption of a mandated safety action plan at every school; and expanded use of uniformed school police officers on every middle and senior high campus.

SIDNEY A. THOMPSON

Superintendent, LAUSD

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