Wednesday, September 20, 2000

You have to stop the little things to end school violence, expert says

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — Preventing violence in schools begins with stopping the little things before they build into something serious, a national expert on school violence says.

        One day after a 14-year-old boy shot into the ceiling of his classroom at Mount Healthy North Middle School, Joanne McDaniel addressed the topic of school violence prevention Tuesday as part of the weeklong “Safe Kids, Strong Families” conference sponsored by Butler County commissioners.

 Tickets or information: Call 887-4203.
        Ms. McDaniel, associate director of the Center for the Prevention of School Violence, said educators have to create school environ ments that minimize disruption of all kinds — not just major events such as guns being discharged in schools — and emphasize respect.

        To do that she advocated a three-tier approach:

        • Create a foundation where all children can find success and respect.

        “Stop behaviors that disrupt the educational mission — the put-downs, the insults, the threats,” Ms. McDaniel said. “Respect is the common ground of recognizing where there's a problem. ... Fighting in hallways happens because someone feels disrespected.

        “Instead of apologizing and moving on, kids now drop a book bag and throw a punch.”

        • Recognize that simple intervention may be needed for some children who begin to show signs that not all is well in their life.

        • Acknowledge that intense intervention may be needed for a few students who act out.

        Since 1993, when the Center for the Prevention of School Violence opened, Ms. McDaniel said, awareness of the possibility of school violence has expanded to all grade levels.

        Initially, it was mostly a concern of high schools, then middle schools and is now being discussed in elementary schools, particularly after last spring when a Michigan first-grader killed a classmate with a gun.

        A poll by the New York Times showed 45 percent of high school students felt safe in their schools, but 52 percent said an incident like the Columbine shootings could happen. In a separate survey, about 45 percent of high school students said they had access to a gun, Ms. McDaniel said.

        She urged adults to watch for changes in a child's behavior that could signal problems, but not to overreact. Talk with the child to find out what's happening.

        The conference continues today at the Harry T. Wilks Conference Center at Miami University's Hamilton Campus.

        Tonight's 7 p.m. keynote address at Parrish Auditorium will be by psychologist Thom Hartmann, who has written books on attention-deficit disorder.

Students talk out concerns over shot
- You have to stop the little things to end school violence, expert says

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