School Beating and Media Blitz

Yes, that was my school you saw on the news this week. You know, the one with the taped beating in the boys bathroom? Yup. That was us. How do I feel about it? Let me tell you.

First, I have to say that we don't have many fights on our campus. Really. This year we've had maybe four that have even garnered attention by those not directly involved. We have had a couple of severe beatings on campus in the past four years. I don't know that this one is the worst. Fights are never a good thing, but they do happen. Beatings are never a good thing, but they also happen. What made this incident unusual was the fact that the video was posted to the internet. According to students, other incidents had been taped as well, some maybe even posted, but somehow the media never got hold of it.

Thursday I arrived at school at 6:45. There was a satellite truck already in the parking lot. The reporter was interviewing our principal inside the administration building. More showed up during the day. When I left at 4:30 that afternoon there was still a satellite truck on campus. Near as I can guess, the following channels visited: 2, 4, 5, 7, 11, and Telemundo. That's a lot of coverage. I had been hoping the coverage was for our "Every 15 Minutes" program (the one to discourage drinking and driving), but it wasn't. Reporters were more interested in a beating.

What truly disgusts me is that we never get coverage for the great things that our students do. We have an award-winning school newspaper, an awarding-winning band and orchestra program, nationally ranked students in judo, track, and cheerleading. Every year our theater and dance productions sell out! Our basketball team went to the state championships two years ago (okay, that is another story for another time). We have students who have been admitted to and will be attending Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, SFSU, Sac State, UC Davis, UC Riverside, Sonoma State....the list goes on and on. We have an 85% pass rate in English on the high school exit exam and a 77% pass rate in Math on the high school exit exam (remember the state average is around 50% for both). We have a higher API/AYP than other other comprehsive high school in our district. We've got great kids, but the community never hears about it.

Recent surveys have shown that many adults are afraid of teenagers. Teens are these alien beings; something to be feared and loathed. I don't understand it. When you look at what teens can do, why are adults afraid of them? My guess is that most adults don't spend the time to get to know teenagers. Try it. They are interesting people. Frequently, they are more interesting than some adults.

I have talked to many in my community who are afraid of our students. They believe our one high school to be a dangerous place. I don't find it to be dangerous. I have invited them to visit my classroom and visit my school. No one has ever taken me up on the offer.

I have two challenges. First, I challenge media outlets to report on good things that students do once in awhile. Second, I specifically challenge the media to come see what my students will be doing as a service project for one of our elementary schools.

Okay, this is enough for now. I am getting angry all over again. If you read this, please keep an open mind next time you have an encounter with a teenager.
That nickname was given to me by a student. Yes, I know. Some people are shocked. I found it amusing. Why? It's one of those things that happens in a classroom. A student gets really frustrated or excited about something and something goofy just pops out of their mouth. "Cold Hearted Demon" was this year's. My first year teaching, my students found out how old I was. Naturally, sixth graders are shocked to find out adults are over 20. Francisco blurted out "Wow! You're an old fart, aren't you?" He was mortified, as were his classmates. They held their collective breath to see what would happen. I busted up laughing. I laughed so hard I cried. They were relieved that I could be so liberal about the whole thing. Same thing happened with "Cold Hearted Demon" this year. Collective breath held. I laughed so hard I cried. I still give the student a bad time about it.