Their Voices: Students debate solutions to violence
by Jennifer Miranda; Timothy-Justin Garcia; Rachel Johnson
Jan 28, 2013 | 3437 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
• Editor's note: Kimball High School’s speech and debate team will host its first tournament Saturday, Jan. 26. The Press invited competitors selected by adviser S. Renee Koon to discuss the topic of violence in schools, which touched the national consciousness following the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 students and six adults, not including the shooter’s mother, who was also killed that day.

Change of perspective needed to prevent violence

As a society, we have failed. We have failed to reasonably act against school violence, which, thanks to media, is a fear of parents and teachers nationwide.

In light of recent news of tragedies like Newtown, Conn., there are people calling for more restrictions, arming teachers, having guards at every school, etc. That is not a solution.

To react with such extreme measures only turns schools into a prison, not a safe place for learning. The media has blown up violence to the point where it has become an “epidemic.”

While violence is a thing to be concerned about, if you do not look at this from a logical point of view, you cease to become a person of thought and then become a victim of what so many of us suffer from — being manipulated by what we hear without any facts.

As a result, we have been presented with solutions that do not, in fact, fix anything.

It is a shame to have children and adults die in school shootings. But the fact is, there has been a slight decline in school violence in the past 15 years.

“Not only are rates of school violence going steadily down, but it’s clear that schools are the safest place for a student to be,” reports Stephen Brock of California State University, Sacramento.

This idea that schools have become institutions of violence is untrue. The media is to blame, reporting as if every child in America is in danger of a troubled child’s revenge.

The media does blow school violence out of proportion, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to prevent school violence. But if we do not understand the underlying causes of school violence, we will be powerless to stop it.

It’s not about the video games or the guns — it’s how society interacts with anyone who is seen as “different” than the person next to them. We condone shunning and teasing of any person who doesn’t act the same, dress the same, think the same. We look at them with judgment. We isolate them.

When young teenagers feel powerless and separated from everyone else, they develop their own ways of dealing with different situations. They may retreat into their own world, content to pretend. They can also become violent, planning their revenge on those who have treated them as less than human.

We, as a society, have created this. Every day, when we call each other names or tease each other, we support bullying — the bullying that leads to young troubled souls. School should be a safe haven for students, not a hellhole.

Why are we arming our teachers instead of striving to prevent those students from getting to the point where they act in horrible acts of violence? If those kids had someone to talk to, if they felt safe, would they have killed or injured?

They needed someone. If they had someone to lean on, the news could have been very different those days.

Why do we have zero-tolerance policies instead of wanting to help those students? It’s been shown that zero-tolerance policies do not work. And at times, it can be extreme, such as when a New Jersey teenager is suspended for bringing over-the-counter allergy medication to school.

If we only realized that those teenagers are people, too — people who needed help. Help from the same society that shunned them, wanted them to conform to their ideals.

The extreme measures suggested will not improve the statistics or lives of children. Instead of freaking out over everything the media blows out of proportion, why don’t we make an actual difference and make it safe for those kids to have their voices heard, when no one else is willing to listen to them.

— Jennifer Miranda

Festering words, insults sometimes prove deadly

For some schools across the nation, violence may be a minor issue. For others, it may be a daily presence in the lives of students.

From the recent Newtown shooting in Connecticut, which horribly left six adults and 20 children dead, to cyber-bullying across the Internet, school violence can happen anytime and anywhere, making it an issue that should neither be overlooked nor ignored.

If you don’t happen to already be a parent of a child, then imagine yourself as one. Think of the following question: What is being done to ensure my child’s safety in school? As an answer, safety is and will always be one of the school administration’s top priorities, and school officials do recognize the potential threats to the children’s safety. But, can their efforts alone be enough?

School violence includes various behaviors, making it difficult to tackle. Violent acts, such as assault or bringing a weapon to school, can lead to serious injury and possible death, but what about the variety that doesn’t require physical force?

Whoever came up with the children’s nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is wrong.

A study from the University of Illinois suggests that dealing with classmate verbal abuse, such as put-downs and name-calling, can make it tedious for students to learn.

Even through the Internet, a student cyber-bully can cause as much emotional harm as physical harm — possibly more — to another student.

The psychological and emotional effects of cyber-bullying are actually parallel to those of bullying in real life. And sometimes, the student isn’t even the victim, but an adult — a teacher or school administrator whose first objective is to create a safe environment on campus.

Last year in June, there sat a 68-year-old bus monitor in the back of Bus 784 as it drove down the streets of Greece, N.Y. While four middle school boys attacked her with verbal abuse, throwing multiple remarks about her weight and her family, Karen Klein only sat in silence in her seat, gazing out the window as she waited for the bus and hateful words to stop. The YouTube video of Klein on the bus has led many sympathetic strangers to question the causes of such acts of school violence.

So, what could be the causes of such violence at school? Well, in my opinion, an act of violence is not always the fault of the perpetrator, but rather the fault of what surrounds him or her.

In the news, we see headlines exclaiming, “Ohio school shooter charged with murder” (CNN) or “Cyber-bullying led to teen’s suicide” (ABC News).

We pray for the victim’s family and loved ones, but then we ponder, why did they do it?

The mix of causes has become predictable: no skills to release the anger and ease the pain, no trusted adult or friend to turn to, and the accessibility of a loaded weapon. These have resulted in physically and emotionally abused students and staff at schools in all parts of our nation.

Though, no matter what cause it is, there is always a solution.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” There are many ways to prevent school violence, but telling a bully victim to “fight back” isn’t one of them. It would only result in the never-ending cycle of fear. To make our schools safer, everyone can and should pitch in. For parents, act as a role model for your children — listen and talk to them regularly. Make it clear that you want to help.

There is no single solution to violence, but anything a community can do to take individual responsibility will surely help.

— Timothy-Justin Garcia

Enough small stones eventually start an avalanche

“Violence is not merely killing another. It is violence when we use a sharp word, when we make a gesture to brush away a person, when we obey because there is fear. So violence isn’t merely organized butchery in the name of God, in the name of society or country. Violence is much more subtle, much deeper, and we are inquiring into the very depths of violence.”

— Jiddu Krishnamurti

Violence has many origins, more than we ever remember. We often ignore minute stabs and soft tones, especially when they are birthed off our moist lips and dry tongues. However, constant abuse, no matter the magnitude, wears on an individual and drags down spirits, allowing the worst actions come to pass.

Many days are marked as infamous and notorious. They are days remembered only in numbers and calculations. On Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary, 26 people died and the shooter committed suicide. On April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School, 13 died, 23 were wounded, and the two shooters committed suicide. April 16, 2007, at Virginia Tech, 32 died, 17 were wounded and, again, the shooter committed suicide.

One thing can be concluded from this information — too many innocent lives have been lost at the hands of school violence.

Curiosity makes me wonder, how many times malicious words, mistreatment, abusive environments, neglect and pain have caused people to act irrationally?

Maybe it started out as a simple act, direct disobedience, verbal disputes, self-inflicted cutting, pinching or ripping hair out. Then it was just not enough — others needed to feel the pain. They no longer could carry the burden, and as a result they collapsed and their whole world came crashing down with them.

There is always a force that pushes us in a particular direction. It pushes us just one step shy or two steps too far.

Remember those times when in a joking manner, someone has said, “You’re such a blonde” or “You’re the smartest blonde I know.”

Remember those times when you were really excited and have news to share because you could not keep it bottled up, it was just too exciting. Then someone says, “Shut up,” or “Maybe you need to play the quiet game.”

Remember those times when you found out your girlfriend is talking to another man or when you found out that your boyfriend is cheating on you.

Remember those times someone says, “You’re big,” or “Are you eating the right foods — maybe you should lay off the sugary drinks.”

Remember those times when you feel invisible and insignificant.

These emotions radiate across campuses and all around our communities. They are so familiar to us that we forget the pain that it causes. We all but forget it until it rings in our ears and sends us into a shock. These sentiments affect everyone. Oftentimes it is easily forgotten that we are part of a greater community and an even greater world.

People often forget the simplicity of life. Instead, one simple equation explaining everything can be diluted by trivial occurrences, volatile emotions and tainted perceptions. The human mind becomes a very dangerous place, where people stop thinking generally. It becomes a Darwinian survival of the fittest.

The simplest solution for everyone is for none of us to be the problem. Rather, let our actions and words be the solution. That is the only way to prevent violence and the loss of innocent life.

— Rachel Johnson

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