In a statement made by Buffalo, NY Mayor Byron Brown he vowed "I will not tolerate any act of violence, especially in and around our public schools." That statement was made in 2006. Although the Mayor has made strides toward police presence and restitution when violence is inflicted by students, as recently as October 19, 2009 a boy of 14 was beaten and robbed while walking to the transit station. This is only the most recent in a string of such attacks near the temporary home of City Honors School at East Utica and Masten Streets. The school's Principal attributes some of this violence to the neighborhood itself, a depressed area prone to violent crime. This does make one wonder why the former School No. 8 was even considered as an interim school while renovations take place at City Honors.
Students Need to Feel Safe
With so many pressures on young people today from curriculum, to becoming responsible, staying away from sex, drugs, alcohol, and other temptations, not necessarily experienced by their parents at the same age, and adding to that the fear of being bullied or worse, mugged on the way home from school, how can we really expect them to learn? When being in school could mean getting your teeth kicked out, being battered and bruised, and losing the possessions you and your family have struggled to obtain, a child cannot concentrate on important things, such as his studies. Yet the presence of police on school grounds before and after school, a school resource officer, and warnings not to flash cell phones, ipods and jewelry, as well as not to wear gang colors, has done little to keep these children safe. The proof is that Mayor Brown and Superintendent of Schools James Williams put these regulations and new support systems into place three years ago. Children are still in danger in the last bastion of safety in the community, aside from church, temple and mosque, the public school. For many years now city school doors have been locked during the school day and over the past few years metal detectors have been in place in some, but these are useless once a child leaves the building.
While we cannot as a community become vigilante, we can take action from the porches, front rooms, and front yards of our homes. It was not uncommon in smaller communities in the early decades of the 1900's for shop keepers and neighbors to watch the children as they headed to and from school and report any misbehavior to the parents of those children. In our busy "get from one place to the next" society we have lost touch with community and the importance of looking out for each other. The coming cold weather of winter will settle some of this for us, when the temperatures drop so does illegal activity. Yet we must remain watchful of not only the City Honors children but all children in our neighborhoods as they travel the walkways and streets in our communities.
Teach our children
It is one thing for the schools to step up their security and for us as adult residents to watch over the children between home and school, it is another thing for the children to know how to take care of themselves.
Superintendent Williams and Principal Kresse have made very helpful suggestions to the students. Do not wear gang colors, solid blue or red t-shirts and bandannas, walk home in numbers, stay away from the Metro Rail at Main and Utica, and wait inside for parents to arrive when being picked up. Our job as parents and mentors is to reinforce these suggestions with the added stern warning that we will not tolerate violent behaviors from or against our children. Be supportive and encourage children to talk about their daily experiences. Let them know where and when to report violence toward them or others. Form partnerships with our schools and our neighbors. Teach our children to look out for others as well as themselves by setting a good example.