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What's the Real Result When Fights in Hallways Are Declared Criminal Behavior

Ohanian Comment: I know that problems at schools have become much more intense than when I was teaching. But I also know that increasingly, urban districts regard students as criminals, turning juveniles who misbehave over to the police. We used to "deal with" such kids. I remember pleading with the assistant superintendent in charge of discipline at my high school in New York City that it was counterproductive to expel Joe C. And don't think our situation was a picnic. Parents were rioting outside our doors over busing.

In any case, those were definitely "the old days."

These days pressure for performance on standardized tests means keeping rigid control on every aspect of schooling--and getting rid of any student who doesn't toe the line. So fights in the hallways become criminal behavior, with students permanently eliminated from the school. To compound this problem, Detroit has decided to privatize the school security force. This means the District saves a little money but removes people who have connections with the community, including important knowledge about the students.

According to a news item in an August 2, 2010 bulletin from Detroit Public Schools, "All of the Securitas personnel will receive training from the Office of Public Safety as to how to provide security in schools before the start of classes in September."

FYI: Bill Cosby,grand marshal of Detroit's upcoming school parade (Aug. 26), is making public appearances in support of district emergency financial manager Robert Bobb. The parade, dubbed an enrollment parade, is part of the district effort to enroll students.

Below is a District message from new member of the Detroit Board of Education Elena Herrada.

by Elena Herrada

Dear friends:

The information enclosed is from sources inside the school system and the community. We can verify much of it by calling the various agencies, sources and with our own research. It is imperative that we maintain a high standard on what we research and the sources. As a Board member, citizen of Detroit, voter and taxpayer, I seek the truth and find the best way forward to educate our children and adults and keep our own resources in our own community. This means that we must be self critical, challenge every source, examine the medium as well as the message.

What reasons are given for the changes imposed?

If no reason is given, we must seek information.

I met with some of the Fired Security officers in District 2. I met with teachers from three of the schools. I have a meeting next week in the evening with parents from two other schools in DPS.

Also, I have requested information from Robert Bobb's office and have not heard back from them;

The security officers will be replaced with Securitas. The new security guards, not to be confused with Public Safety Officers, will receive about $11.00 per hour. The fired officers received about $18.00 per hour. In schools like Western, the officer is bilingual and is a member of the community. His family has been here for many generations and the students, parents, and staff of the school know him and trust him. The police officers in the community know the school well and the personnel well. As a former Western parent, I also have been a longtime member of this family. The situation of gangs in Western and Earheart is serious and the officers in these schools have been instrumental in handling the very nuanced nature of life in Southwest Detroit.

The website advertises the jobs for people with prior police experience, and states that there are 200 openings. This job is 40 hours per week and provides medical, dental and optical and 401(k). It does not mention what the employee contribution is, if any to the health care.

The officers told me that there is now a prosecutor in each school.The officer who is assigned to an elementary school described the impact of this: Children who are doing what we did as children, when parents would be called to come down to the school are now arrested, interrogated, and permanently expelled from school. There are several now who are incarcerated and the presence of Homeland Security and other law enforcement has ramped up the arrest and incarceration rate exponentially. There is now a much greater chance of being arrested in school than at home or elsewhere. The tension and pressure on teachers to make students perform on tests is creating conflict in the halls, is making teachers only disciplinarians.

The officers have told me that they have not received their last raises or their vacation and sick time.

One of the security officers has brain cancer and was fired without one day left of his medical benefits. He had been working while recovering from cancer and is in the process of healing from brain surgery and chemotherapy. He has no health care now. . . .

There are no bilingual teachers assigned to the classes at Western or Earheart. These schools are 85% Mexican.

While we speak, WDET is hosting a program about DPS. No Board members are included in the discussion.

There is a transition meeting today at DPS Welcome Center at 5:00 p.m. Hope to see you there.

In faith and solidarity,

— Elena Herrada
message from Detroit Public School Board member




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