Citizens meet to discuss violence in schools
By Joe McGehee
More than 30 concerned citizens gathered at Third Presbyterian Church Jan. 14 to discuss the prevalence of gang violence in District 205 schools. The meeting, which was facilitated by Joan Wardzala of Voices of Rockford, was the first of several meetings to be held to address ways of making schools safer.
The last three months have seen violence and issues related to student discipline receive increased attention. There have been fights at West Middle School, alleged rioting at East High School, a stabbing at Guilford High School and students arrested for weapons, drugs and possession of body armor at Auburn High School during that span.
Tina McFarland, who met with Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) earlier in the day, shared the fears and concerns of parents. McFarland has four children in District 205 schools, and characterized her meeting with Morrissey as very positive.
“He was happy to hear my concerns,” said McFarland. “He let me know that he wants to hear from anyone and everyone regarding the topic.
“Kids don’t feel protected because they perceive a lack of punishment for offenders,” McFarland continued. “Kids are being put in a position where they feel like they have to protect themselves. I feel like the administrators need to listen to kids’ concerns and then act on them. Plus, the teachers need to be backed up by downtown so they can discipline kids and regain control of the schools.”
An Auburn High School senior who wished to remain nameless added: “There’s definitely increased violence in our schools this year. The situation isn’t getting any better and students are scared at school.”
Parents, students and concerned citizens were joined at the brainstorming session by representatives from District 205, as Mark Bonne, Colleen Cyrus and John Malone were in attendance. Also, School Board member Jude Makulec was on hand to hear the concerns expressed by frustrated parents, worried students and former teachers.
“There are just too many unacceptable situations in our schools,” said Tim Hughes, former Auburn High School teacher. “We’ve got a couple of potential Columbines in our schools, and we need to stop them before they erupt. It’s a miracle they haven’t exploded yet.”
Possible solutions were brought to light, but discussed only briefly. Many of those in attendance realized the need for further meetings to incorporate real change in our schools. The list of possible solutions included installing metal detectors, having teachers spend more time in the halls, increasing parent volunteers and issuing students uniforms.
According to Wardzala, there will be more meetings in the coming months to address the issue of student and staff safety in our schools.
Check back to rockrivertimes.com for further news about future meetings.
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