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ORANGE COUNTY VOICES

Workable Solutions to School Violence

Several cost-effective programs that are already in place can help identify and guide troubled students.

June 28, 1998|MAUREEN ASCHOFF | Maureen Aschoff is a trustee and past president of the Board of Education in the Orange Unified School District

Earlier this month, a 17-year-old Villa Park High School student was arrested in connection with his father's killing.

Recently, a 14-year-old opened fire with a pistol in the hallway of Armstrong High School in Virginia; the shooting followed an argument earlier between two juveniles.

Always the question: Why?

A recent epidemic of school campus shootings has left 15 dead and over 44 wounded. These heinous teenage crimes continue to plague our schools and communities. Most of these young men can be considered social misfits, outsiders, interpersonally dysfunctional. Most have poor relationships with responsible adults, struggle academically and have limited male role models. They are particularly sensitive to emotional stress.

Most teachers and parents can recognize the signs in the child by third grade. Teachers, parents and religious leaders are not bothering to make sure that every child is taught the essentials of handling anger or resolving conflicts positively to encourage emotional competency. Without the necessary guidance and resources, the media world becomes the primary teacher.

Violence is a commodity that is sold to an in-your-face culture. These young people are mimicking the adults they see on the screen. The value of hard work, sacrifice, responsibility and respect has been transformed by a culture of greed and materialism.

Although the epidemic of juvenile crime comes during a time when we have tripled the number of people in prison and states are committing billions of dollars for more jails, many cost-effective programs have been initiated around the country.

* The Fast Track, First Step to Success program as well as the Orange County Department of Education PAL project are plans that teach conflict resolution through role-playing, anger-controlling techniques and behavior modification.

* Adult mentoring programs have linked a responsible adult with a child in need. These adults become the role models, so desperately needed in their lives. Such programs are built on the assumption that an adult who takes a personal interest in a child or adolescent, providing attention and guidance that is often missing, can make a difference.

* In the schools, the group investigation model of teaching has had remarkable results in both learning and behavioral environments. Members learn from each other, reducing alienation and loneliness, building relationships and promoting affirmative views of other people.

These strategies, combined with a safe-school plan structured to promote positive behavior while offering nonviolent disciplinary consequences, encourage effective solutions to problems.

Maybe none of us could have predicted this epidemic violence that has erupted across the nation, but to do nothing allows the massacre of our nation's youth to continue.

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