Sunday, October 9, 2011

Knives in schools...

The October 16th edition of the Herald On Sunday (pg 16) featured an article titled ‘Armed in The Classroom”. The front page teaser for the article read “Knives in schools. The statistics that will shock you”

Well, the statistics did not shock me. They didn't even surprise me.

The original article and link to the original is below this blog.

You can read the statistics for yourself and yes, they are not good. They also don't paint an accurate picture of the scale of the problem. I know this because I work with and around violence every day. I have worked in schools ranging from low decile to decile 10. And this problem is a serious one. Of course we could look at the all of the underlying factors here, the issues that cause the violence which is now more and more frequently involving weapons, but I have commented, discussed and written about this before so I want to keep this to the specific subject of weapons in schools.

Last year I was working with a group of year 12 boys in a decile 10 school. The subject of knives came up and I asked them “how many people in here know someone at this school who has bought a knife to school, either yourself or someone else, recently?” There were 27 students in the class, eight raised their hand.

I asked them why they thought “these people” (I knew I was talking directly to some of them) bought weapons to school. The most common answer was ‘Self Defence’. Other answers included “to look tough”, “because they’re marked” etc…

This prompted me to have a very frank and blunt discussion with them about what they ‘thought’ constituted self defence and where knives fall into that equation, the true consequences of the action of carrying a weapon (legal, moral, ethical, emotional, financial, scholarly, career, family), and a look at the real risks associated with this practise vs the perceived gains. The discussion had a profound effect on them with a unanimous agreement that it was a very bad idea. I have worked with students long enough to know when they are saying something simply to placate me and when they genuinely ‘get it’, and this was a situation where they genuinely ‘got it’.

Several of the students made comments along the lines of “nobody has ever made me think of it like that before”, "You (meaning them) just do it because others do it but no-one really makes you think about what could happen” etc…

The HOD for the school, who was sitting in attendance for the session made the comment to me afterwards that this was so valuable because I was able to have a discussion with the kids “that the teachers can’t have and that they don’t get at home from dad”. It had a huge impact on this group and has on several other’s since, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

One such talk resulted in a student approaching me after the session and handing me a makeshift knife. He told me “Thank you sir, I won’t need this anymore” . That is a big impact.

The issues of teachers being able to search students is one thing, but how about fixing the underlying issues? What our organisation does is only a piece of that puzzle I know, and many schools are doing their best to work on many of the issues, but what we can do is make the kids understand the real consequences. We are in a very unique position to be able to do that. And if they no longer want or feel they need to carry knives or other weapons a big part of the issue is fixed right there. Will we get through to all of them and have them all never carry weapons again? No, of course not. But we can make a huge dent in the numbers who do.

The schools who work with us are progressive and are in many ways pioneers in addressing this issue and the other relevant issues facing their students’ safety. Some others are just plain apathetic and operating in a realm of absolute denial. This issue is real, it is obvious, the signs are there if they care to look, yet when one of their students or teachers is stabbed (again), you can guarantee we’ll hear the same old tune of “there was nothing we could do to prevent it”, or “it came out of the blue” . I am tired of hearing these things. There is plenty that can be done to prevent it and NONE of these incidents (not one) has happened “out of the blue”. Anyone who wishes to debate with me on that, I welcome it.

Anyway, this blog is just me sharing a couple of my many thoughts on this issue but at the end of the day it will be read by those who already know that what we are doing is making massive differences, and is unlikely to be read or taken seriously by anyone in the school system who will take any action. I hope I am wrong about that, I genuinely do, but I doubt that I am.

To end on a brighter note, we recently ran another women’s personal safety course at a decile 10 Auckland College and the results were absolutely outstanding. The feedback has been overwhelming from the staff and the students alike and the difference in the students’ confidence and overall empowerment was incredible. So there are schools who really are making a great difference and it is always an honour to work with them.

Original article here:

Armed in the classroom
By Chloe Johnson 5:30 AM Sunday Oct 9, 2011

Teachers are trying to fathom why an increasing number of kids, some as young as 5, bring weapons to school.

Expand Teachers are allowed to search children for weapons and drugs, but many are nervous of doing this one-on-one. Photo / Janna DixonChildren as young as 5 are among the alarming number of pupils who have been suspended or stood down for having weapons at school.

Figures the Herald on Sunday obtained through the Official Information Act show more than 1000 students have been removed from schools for possessing or using a weapon in the past two years.

At least 700 cases involved knives, blades, hammers, scissors and guns, including replicas.

In one case, a 5-year-old boy was stood down for five days for violent behaviour - brandish-ing a weapon - at teachers and students in the classroom. The type of weapon used has not been disclosed.

Ministry of Education curriculum and performance manager Jeremy Wood refused to name the school to protect the child's identity. However, he said the boy was removed from class after the incident in 2009 and received support from special education services for more than a year.

"He has not received any further stand-downs or suspensions, and no further support is currently needed," Wood said.

Educational psychologist Fiona Ayers said it was a huge concern the boy had become violent at such a young age.

"That's scary. What is going on in that kid's life that makes him feel he is so unsafe he has to carry a weapon?"

She said there were several reasons children carried weapons: protection from bullies, issues at home, influence from television or video games and simply thinking it was "cool" to have weapons.

"It's more the impulsive ones doing it. I have heard of kids who have left school and gone home then come back with weapons because they are upset. They are the ones more likely to use them."

Unskilled parents were a large part of the problem because children were copycats.

'Some of them, we do have to look at the culture of the environment they are in ... if family or uncles or people in the neighbourhood are doing that sort of thing then it might be one option for the child."

Te Puke High School maths teacher Steve Hose, 53, was stabbed in the neck and shoulder four times last year by a 13-year-old student from a dysfunctional family. The student took his own life about three months ago.

Hose said he ran to the front of the classroom after being stabbed and felt the blood dripping down his body. "I yelled at the kids, 'Get out'. I just needed them out of the way," Hose said. He looked in the "wide focused eyes" of his attacker and said, 'Are you sure you want to do this, mate?'. He looked at me dead in eyes and said, 'Yes'."

Education Minister Anne Tolley introduced new guidelines this year for teachers to search students for drugs and weapons which Hose supported. "But you need to get a senior team to direct the proceedings. One-on-one is a bad idea."


* Knife: 450

* Gun, including toy: 219

* Scissors: 36

* Blade: 12

* Hammer: 11

Total suspensions and stand downs between 2008 and 2010 for weapons-related incidents:
* Primary (Yr 1-8), 409;
* Secondary (Yr 9-15), 609;
* Composite (Yr 1-15), 49 (2008-2010)

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