Of all the comments made last week during meetings about student discipline problems at Chaney High School in Youngstown, this one from a parent struck us as indicative of the challenges confronting Superintendent Connie Hathorn and the other stakeholders:
“How are you going to teach if you’re afraid of students?” parent Dawacia Muldrow asked rhetorically. But Muldrow, who has a son in the senior class, wasn’t sympathizing with the teachers at Chaney. Rather, she was making the point that she sees a problem with teachers who are afraid.
Let’s get something straight: The faculty and staff at the West Side high school aren’t a bunch of scaredy-cats. They just know that a goodly number of students are from the rough streets of the city where there is little sense of right and wrong and where violence is a way of life.
Just drive through the inner city neighborhoods and it will become clear that teachers aren’t dealing with a bunch of youngsters who are just having some harmless fun. There is no respect for the law, and even less for the teachers and others in authority.
So, if Muldrow wants the fear factor to be eliminated, she and other parents and guardians should develop a strategy to reassure those in charge that students who disrupt classes will be dealt with harshly, and that punishment meted out to the young thugs will not result in retaliation — either on or off campus.
Superintendent Hathorn hosted the meetings last week in response to what he termed “a deteriorating teaching and learning environment that has been compromised by an increase in fights, verbal and written threats, gang influence, bullying connected to past acts of school violence, and trespassing on school property to purposely attack another student.”
That is the definition of a war zone, and the only way to end the violence is to get rid of the perpetrators.
No moral bearings
These aren’t choir boys and girls; they are young people who have no moral bearings.
The parents and guardians have to accept ultimate responsibility for what is going on at Chaney High School, which is why we fully support the superintendent’s decision to organize them into a team with the task of finding solutions to the problems.
The principal, the dean of students, other administrators and teachers can be as tough as possible in dealing with the disruptive elements, but if they don’t have the support of the community, nothing will be accomplished.
A teacher isn’t going to confront some student who has the look of the street about him. But, having other adults in the classroom as backup would certainly change the dynamic. The same is true of having adults walking the hallways, being assigned to cafeteria duty and patrolling the grounds. The district cannot afford to pay for all the security that is needed to take back the school from the scofflaws.
If parents and guardians want Chaney to be a true center of learning, they will offer to become directly involved on a daily basis on campus.