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Street violence "part of achievement gap" in urban schools

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  • Street violence "part of achievement gap" in urban schools

    I don't know quite what to expect by posting this on this forum. More jokes and jabs, or asking for more help in the cause to rescue the numerous kids in our inner cities who face trauma akin to a war zone.

    Street violence "part of achievement gap" in urban schools
    By Steve Giegerich

    Stephen Ross listed the litany of crimes that have touched his life with the nonchalance of a kid reciting the names of favorite teachers.

    A cousin slain last year, the fatal stabbing of a stranger he witnessed in 2004, an uncle stabbed and injured, a friend's uncle murdered, the two incidents when he was personally assaulted, a brazen burglary at family's former home where thieves pretty much grabbed everything that wasn't nailed down, including the refrigerator. Stephen (pronounced Stefan) paused upon finishing the list.

    "I'm not going to lie," said the Roosevelt High School junior. "It makes you scared."

    The toll that kind of fear exacts on youth is becoming increasingly evident as researchers draw a line between classroom performance and the trauma and violence encountered by urban students.

    It's a correlation, the experts are discovering, that leads to under-achievement if not outright academic failure in places such as St. Louis.

    Preliminary research from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, for example, suggests that more than two-thirds of the city's public school students may be suffering symptoms of trauma tied to violence.

    Steven Friedman, the executive director of Cleveland's Mental Health Services calls the repercussions of violence on urban youth, "the mental health issue no one was addressing."

    Cleveland, in fact, is among the cities seizing the initiative. Its "Children Who Witness Violence" program, shepherded by Friedman's agency, has been seeking to counter the effect violence has on urban youth. Los Angeles has similar project, teaming schools and social services agencies.

    Pia Escudero, the project coordinator for the Trauma Services and Adaptation Center for Schools and Communities, an acclaimed intervention program serving the Los Angeles Unified School District, said cities ignore the link between violence and learning at their own peril.

    "If we ignore it, (young people) will become hostile and succumb to violence," she said. "Our kids will not achieve if we don't do something about this."

    Although some St. Louis agencies deal with the emotional aftermath of violence, the St. Louis Public Schools do not have specific programs to deal with the issue.

    But a research study at UMSL intended to measure the breadth and impact violence has on the district's 28,000 students, may provide the impetus for the city, and the district, to move in that direction.


    The early returns on UMSL's research are disturbing, yet, given the city's reputation, not entirely surprising.

    Of the 75 children interviewed so far, 20 percent said they'd witnessed a murder by the age of 12. Another 50 percent had observed physical assault and 25 percent had seen someone threatened by a firearm.

    The upshot is that an estimated 70 percent of children attending the city schools have symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 50 percent suffer from depression and 70 percent reported problems sleeping.

    The current research piggybacks a five-year study, completed in 2003, that tracked 430 St. Louis children. Those findings concluded that when children are witnesses to crime they suffer a host of problems, from a loss of self-confidence to a negative self-image.

    "If you're dealing with that every day, it would get to the point where you're not feeling much," said Lois Pierce, the UMSL professor and head of the school's Sociology Department heading the research project.

    Living in a neighborhood where she hears the sound of "gunshots all the time," Roosevelt High junior Lonnie Lesuer suppresses her feelings as a coping mechanism.

    "Sleet, snow, rain, it doesn't matter. It's no telling, they just shoot a lot," she said. "You can push it aside, you've got to, you can't hold onto it for a long time."

    When numbed, distracted and exhausted students walk through the schoolhouse door, experts say violence claims yet another victim — learning.

    "It's part of the achievement gap," said Escudero, of the trauma program in Los Angeles. "And it's something we see here every day."

    Spurred by findings similar to the St. Louis research, the Los Angeles program got its start 20 years ago with the support of schools, social service agencies, mental health organizations and the University of California at Los Angeles.

    The project now estimates that 99 percent of students in the Los Angeles system have been exposed to violence, 33 percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and 16 percent are clinically depressed.

    In response to those numbers, the center dispatches mental health workers, school counselors and, increasingly, teachers to assist students with the consequences of living where the sound of gunfire is ubiquitous.

    "You can't just teach the counselors," said Escudero. "You need to teach the teachers, too, or it won't help."


    Cleveland's initiative began in 1997, when Mental Health Services joined with social services, law enforcement, the schools and Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital to form the "Children Who Witness Violence Program."

    Under the program, when children are exposed to domestic violence or the death or injury of a loved one, police summon an "EMS response for social services." If necessary, counselors assist the family with funeral arrangements, provide food and even advice on how to deal with the media.

    From that point, the children are monitored and assessed. Schools are placed on alert. Within 90 days, a referral is usually made for long-term counseling. Approximately 40 percent of the families take advantage of the offer, said Rosemary Creeden, the program manager.

    The program has been so successful at treating the "emotional consequences" of violence for immediate families that Creeden hopes to expand the service to children once, twice or more removed from violent acts.

    "The model of our program is to recognize that the impact of these events extends through a whole network of people," she said.

    Pierce, of UMSL, points out that ending the cycle that spirals from one act of violence into another should be the underlying objective of all counseling programs involving youths in violent urban environments.

    Boys in particular identify with aggressors, she said, because "they believe that if you can be like the people you are afraid of, then you have less reason to be afraid."

    Stephen Ross provided a textbook example of that reasoning.

    "You can't let them know how scared you are," he said. "So you have to act manly around them. It's not making you masculine, it's making you as scared as they are."

    The two assaults weighing heavy in his mind, Stephen says he has learned to protect himself.

    That protection, he emphasized, does not involve weapons.

    [email protected] | 314-340-8172
    Make America Great For Once.

  • #2
    The OFFICIAL Lounge Sponsor of:


    • #3
      Bourisaw gave a detailed presentation trying to explain the unique problems of violence, poverty, and constant moving of residence and changing guardians, with specific ways to combat their negative effects on learning.

      Then she fucked it all up by telling that it would cost money to implement programs like that.

      They wanted her to say, build more charter schools, and the competition factor will solve all the problems. She did not say that---and she will be replaced with someone who will.


      • #4
        This problem is more complex than just having the government throw more money at it. People need to take an interest in other people. Help where you can. Do some volunteer work. Otherwise, it's going to spread to a community near you.
        Make America Great For Once.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Bleacher Creature View Post
          This problem is more complex than just having the government throw more money at it. People need to take an interest in other people. Help where you can. Do some volunteer work. Otherwise, it's going to spread to a community near you.
          I probably posted this once-----a week later I am still thinking about these people---they really try hard---I actually wrote to Eric Mink about considering Cleveland Hammonds as an op-ed regular---he usually responds---not this time, so far...

          Hammonds Returns for Education Forum

          Posted on 23 February 2008 by Antonio French
          How do we improve educational opportunities in St. Louis? That is one of the unanswered questions that has defined our region — as well as many other urban areas around the country — for more than three decades. Is is also the subject of an upcoming public forum which marks the return of former St. Louis Public Schools superintendent Cleveland Hammonds.

          kjoe Says:

          I attended—these are my observations. Did my music until 1 a.m. in Crystal City, got up early enough to set up stuff for tonight, and drove to st. louis—it is harder than ever to get on highway 40 from 55 downtown. The parking at the library was easy—and cheaper than a Cardinal baseball game—there is not even a subtle point to make of that.
          I was there in time to hear Cleveland Hammonds speak—-he said he feels differently now about the importance of political involvement to fight for what is needed—staying above the fray is not the right attitude. Nolan talked about access academies, and evidently someone on the board had the same thought i did—the “rigorous” requirements of long days, long school year, brought to mind the much touted Kipps school coming in next year. He said there were differences, but I heard him say if students behave themselves and apply themselves they do very well. I wondered—how many don’t, and what becomes of them.
          I was struck by the fact that the much abused elected board was taking a risk—asking a group of professional educators to gather, and hoping people would show up. The crowd was almost overflowing, but managable and very attentive. I found the turnout amazing—I am not that busy, but the people who were there really are. What dedication to give up this much time on a Saturday. For intangible, but valuable rewards.
          Dr. Williams, who used to teach middle school had a forceful, passionate delivery about things which are needed.
          There were more than 15 people signed up to ask questions—Peter Downs said we have 10 minutes and 12 questions to go, so edit them down a little—Board member Jackson said the next question comes from Percy Green—that might have been the loudest laugh of the day.
          There were too many questions to get to everyone who signed up—I told David Jackson that I understood, being a karoke operator who has to tell people every night that we are out of time. We talked a little about how much more attention needs to be paid to the state department of ed.

          Dr. Hammonds had pretty much answered the things about which I wanted to ask–I kept thinking–7 years? That fact alone should earn him a spot as a regular voice on the pd op-ed page—I asked him if he would be willing to do a commentary on a regular basis if Eric Mink or whoever wanted him to—he indicated he would. He obviously still cares a lot about the system he served, and is well aware of everything going on.
          I met Ms Wessling—she told me i made her mother’s day the night i called in to donnybrook and took them to task for—well—all i remember was i took them to task. I pointed out to Byron Clemens a study of Milwaukee which you can find at Arch City Chronicle regarding a comparison of their voucher schools and their public schools—get this—they found public school parents spent more time helping their kids with homework than the voucher parents—-in spite of having double the load of children with learning disabilities, the public schools did just as well on testing. Byron told me about the mayor of Indianapolis not being re-elected.
          I tried to overcome my uneasiness about being an outsider with the belief that it was ok—what is happening in st. louis will affect the rest of the state in ways which, so far, people seem not very aware.
          Congratulations to all who cared enough to attend.