August 10th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: Why I won't break up a school fight

By Robyn Barberry, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Robyn Barberry teaches English and drama at a Maryland high school. With her husband, she manages Legends of the Fog, a haunted attraction with more than 200 teen volunteers. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College and blogs about motherhood for The Catholic Review.

(CNN) - In Florida, a 64-year-old bus driver has been criticized for failing to physically intervene in a three-on-one fight that took place in July. The bus driver says he was afraid to step in. As a high school teacher, I can't blame him.

The adults who work in public schools are outnumbered. When a violent, hormone-fueled scene unfolds, it's our duty to quell the calamity with every resource we have in the name of safety. But where do we draw the line?

Early in my teaching career, I was afraid of some of the bigger boys at school, especially one. I could see he carried a great deal of hatred inside - for me, for his classmates, for the world. He was tall and muscular; he could have been an athlete, but his poor grades, bad attitude and spotty record kept him from playing sports.

One afternoon, as I waited outside my classroom door, I heard a scuffle behind me. The boy I feared and another, smaller boy were shoving each other by my white board. I stepped in, and told them to stop. When they didn't, I shouted louder and told another student, my go-to helper, to get another teacher. As the shoves turned to punches, rage grew in the larger boy's eyes. The other student asked him to stop, but he had thrust his hands around his neck. I tried to pull him free, but the large boy shoved, pressing the other student and my arm against the cinder block wall. I felt trapped and frightened, and thought I might black out. Just then, two male teachers pulled the boys apart and dragged them to the office.

"Are you OK?" a third teacher said. "Look at your hand!"

My wrist was red and swollen. It hurt, but not as much as knowing I wasn't safe in my own classroom. My neighbor teacher took over my class so that I could go to the office to fill out an incident report. I could barely grip the pen. Two police officers assigned to our school urged me to file assault charges against the boys, but I insisted they just hadn't seen me. I wanted to believe that they wouldn't hurt me, but I also wondered if the boy would retaliate if the law got involved.

Fortunately, my wrist was only sprained and I returned to work the next day in a cumbersome brace. But I kept wondering, what if the boy had pushed the other one harder? What if his anger was directed at me? Suppose it was my head that was smashed against that cinderblock wall? What if he'd had a weapon?

On the other side, what if adrenaline gave me undiscovered strength and I had hurt one of them? Could their parents sue me? Would I lose my job?

Read Barberry's full column

August 6th, 2013
03:12 PM ET

New Atlanta high school features rifle range

(CNN) - A new high school opening in Atlanta this week will feature 11 stories of space for students - and a new rifle range. The space will be used by Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and rifle team members, and will be under the direction of a trained educator, CNN affiliate WSB reported. The range will be used for compressed air-powered pellet rifles, and is modeled after an existing range at another Atlanta high school, but some parents and students said it raised safety questions.

August 5th, 2013
09:24 AM ET

Driver says he did all he could during Florida school bus beating

By Pamela Brown, CNN

(CNN) - The windmilling fists and stomping feet rain down blows on the 13-year-old boy.

Trapped on the floor between the bus seats, he cries out as he receives fierce punch after vicious kick from the three bigger, older youths.

As the relentless assault unfolds, the driver of the Florida school bus alerts the dispatcher, pleading for aid.

But he doesn't physically step in to help.

The bus driver, at least according to his school's policy, did nothing wrong.

'Get somebody here quick'

The attack took place July 9 in Pinellas County, Florida. But the horrific cell phone video - and the surveillance video - came out only recently.

As the boy is pummeled, the bus driver John Moody yells at the assailants to leave the boy alone.

He also asks dispatchers to send help.

"You gotta get somebody here quick, quick, quick, quick," he says. "They're about to beat this boy to death over here."

"Please get somebody here quick. There's still doing it," he adds. "There's nothing I can do."

Moody, 64, says he was too afraid to step in.

"The three boys just jumped on him and started pounding on him. And I did all can," he told CNN affiliate WFLA. "I was looking. It was like I was in shock. I was petrified."

Not required to intervene

The ferocity of the attack left the 13-year-old with two black eyes and a broken arm.

"There was clearly an opportunity for him to intervene and or check on the welfare of the children or the child in this case and he didn't make any effort to do so," Chief Robert Vincent of Gulfport Police Department told the affiliate.

According to Pinellas County school policy, the bus driver isn't required to intervene, only to call dispatch.

He can step in, if he feels it's safe.

Other counties actually forbid drivers from physically stopping fights.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Bus driver • Florida • School bus safety • School violence
July 26th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

University of Southern California student: Campus police decided I wasn't raped

(CNN) - A University of Southern California student said she reported a rape, and was told police won't pursue a case because the alleged rapist didn't orgasm. Another student said she was raped by her former boyfriend, and the campus brushed it off. The university says it takes sexual violence seriously, that it investigates cases and takes disciplinary action, but it's no replacement for the Los Angeles Police Department. Students have now formed the Student Coalition Against Rape, and the U.S. Department of Education is looking into how the university is handling cases of sexual violence.

It's not the first campus that has faced criticism in recent years for how it handled rape; the U.S. Department of Education has opened investigations into several universities.

July 25th, 2013
10:30 AM ET

Indian headmistress tied to poisoned lunches arrested

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN

New Delhi (CNN) - The headmistress of the Indian school that authorities say served toxic lunches, killing 23 students, was arrested Wednesday, police said.

Meena Kumari, 36, was taken into custody on her way to a court where she had gone to surrender herself, police Superintendent Sujeet Kumar told CNN. She will be questioned Wednesday and taken before the court Thursday, he said.

Authorities had been working to track down Kumari, who had been at large since the July 16 incident.

The whereabouts of her husband, who is not named as an accused person in the case, are still not known, Kumar added. Police want to question him in connection with the case.

Pesticides have been found in the food and oil used in the school lunch that sickened 25 others in northern India's Bihar state, police said.

Read the full story

Deadly school lunch in India
July 23rd, 2013
11:35 AM ET

Officers hunt down headmistress after Indian school poisoning

By Harmeet Shah Singh and Tom Watkins, CNN

Partna, India (CNN) - A week after an Indian school served toxic food to students, leaving 23 dead, its headmistress remains missing along with her husband, police said Tuesday. A nine-member team of officers has been formed to investigate and track down the principal, Meena Kumari, police superintendent Sujeet Kumar said.

Police presence is heavy in the village in Bihar state, especially around the principal's home.

Authorities have recorded statements from 40 witnesses, including child survivors of the July 16 food poisoning, Kumar said.

Residents went on a rampage a day after the toxic meals were served in the local government school, torching at least four police cars.

In acts of protest, parents of at least three children have buried their kids near the school - one right in front of the building, according to officials.

Police will ensure the headmistress' safety when she resurfaces or is taken into custody for questioning, authorities said.

Pesticides have been found in the food and oil used in the school lunch that sickened 25 others on July 16 in northern India's Bihar state, police said.

Read the full story

Deadly school lunch in India
July 22nd, 2013
09:33 AM ET

Pesticides found in deadly school lunch in India

By Harmeet Shah Singh and Tom Watkins, CNN

Patna, India (CNN) - Pesticides have been found in the food and oil used in a free school lunch that killed 23 students and sickened 25 others on Tuesday in northern India's Bihar state, police said Saturday.

Forensic scientists found monocrotophos, an organophosphorus compound used as an insecticide, "in the samples of oil from the container, food remains on the platter and mixture of rice with vegetables in an aluminum utensil," Assistant Director General Ravinder Kumar told reporters in Patna.

Monocrotophos, which is used for agricultural purposes, is toxic to humans.

An administrative inquiry has pointed to negligence by the school headmistress in supervising food preparation for the children, Bihar state's midday meal director R. Lakshamanan told CNN on Friday.

The cook, Manju Devi, was hospitalized after eating the food she prepared, doctors said.

Devi told police that the headmistress, Meena Kumari, did not heed her warning that the mustard oil used to prepare Tuesday's lunch looked and smelled bad and instead insisted that she continue preparing the meal, Lakshmanan said, citing the inquiry report.

Police told CNN that investigators were trying to find Kumari to question her.

The investigation found compromised hygiene and sanitation in the school, which was running from a single-room makeshift building, he added.

Read the full story

 

 

July 19th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

School principal missing after lunch deaths in India

By Harmeet Shah Singh, Sumnima Udas and Ashley Fantz, CNN

Bihar, India (CNN) - A father holds his limp child in his arms, carrying her from the school he trusted to take care of her. A video camera focuses on his face locked in total anguish. Everyone around him is shouting. He goes to the back of an open van and struggles to keep the white blanket he's wrapped around his child's body from slipping as he lays the body down.The mother of a 5-year-old repeatedly calls her daughter's name.

Why aren't you coming back, she pleads.

"Why isn't anyone bringing Dipu back?!"

These moments came in the wake of the deaths of 23 Indian children who were poisoned by school lunches they were given Tuesday, authorities say.

The students, who authorities said were between the ages of 5 and 12, started vomiting soon after their first bite of rice and potatoes at their government primary school in the northern state of Bihar. Some fainted.

Earlier, authorities had said 22 children had died, but on Thursday district magistrate Abhijit Sinha explained that one deceased boy had not been counted in the initial death toll because his father had taken his body without handing it over for autopsy.

Grief and anger so permeate this poverty-stricken community that parents of at least three children have buried their lost ones near the school - one right in front of the building, according to CNN journalists who saw the burial mounds. Sinha told CNN that the burials were acts of protest.

Demonstrations have popped up around the area as people seek answers about how this tragedy could have happened. One video segment showed men apparently attacking a school bus with sticks. Others gathered and held signs.

Students at nearby schools refused to eat.

"I am scared now. ... There is fear in our hearts," one child told CNN sister network CNN-IBN.

Meanwhile, a top federal official said authorities had warned of safety problems with the state's school meal program months ago.

And police told CNN that investigators have been unable to find the headmistress of the school in order to question her.

Authorities have not named the headmistress and her husband, whom they also want to interview, local police chief Sujit Kumar said Thursday.

Read the full story

Iris scans are the new school IDs
Some schools and colleges are using iris scanning as a school security measure, CNNMoney reports.
July 12th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Iris scans are the new school IDs

By Laurie Segall and Erica Fink,  CNNMoney

New York (CNNMoney) - Kids lose their school IDs but they don't often lose their eyeballs.

That's one of the reasons why a growing number of schools are replacing traditional identification cards with iris scanners. By the fall, several schools - ranging from elementary schools to colleges - will be rolling out various iris scanning security methods.

Winthrop University in South Carolina is testing out iris scanning technology during freshman orientation this summer. Students had their eyes scanned as they received their ID cards in June.

"Iris scanning has a very high level of accuracy, and you don't have to touch anything, said James Hammond, head of Winthrop University's Information Technology department. "It can be hands free security."

The college will be deploying scanning technology from New Jersey-based security company Iris ID.

Read the full story on CNNMoney

Students stand up: Empowering bystanders
June 26th, 2013
11:48 AM ET

Teens trained to spot drama before it turns dangerous

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) - Lauren Astley knew her ex-boyfriend was having a hard time getting over their breakup.

Nathaniel Fujita hadn't wanted to end their three-year relationship. He made it clear in a long e-mail, asking her to give him a chance to find "a part of you that still loves me." But after several "negotiated truces," as her mother calls them, it was over in May 2011, a few weeks before their graduation from Wayland High School in Massachusetts.

But Lauren, 18, didn't stop worrying about Nate, especially as he withdrew from his friends. She was known for being kind, caring and deeply involved in the lives of friends - attributes her classmates lauded in her senior yearbook, along with her singing voice and warm smile. She discussed her ex-boyfriend's antisocial behavior with friends, and they decided together that she should be the one to reach out to him. After weeks of ignoring her texts, Nate, 19, finally agreed to meet her on July 3, 2011.

The next day, her body was found in a marsh about five miles from his home. He had strangled her with a bungee cord, stabbed her multiple times and slashed her throat. Her body was dumped in a nature preserve he knew from science class.

Nate had shown signs of jealousy in the past, but nobody suspected he would hurt Lauren. During his murder trial, his lawyer said he snapped mentally when he killed her. Prosecutors said it was a case of extreme dating violence, that he wasn't psychotic - just angry, hurt and humiliated by the breakup.

Nate was convicted of first-degree murder in March and sentenced to life in prison. But the quest for closure doesn't always end with a jury's verdict, especially in places like the couple's hometown of Wayland, which calls itself a "stable and progressive community, characterized by a legacy of civic engagement."

It's the kind of idyllic American suburb where "things like this aren't supposed to happen." In the wake of her death, community members pondered the warning signs. What did we miss? Could anybody have stopped this before it spiraled out of control?

Lauren's family saw new meaning in their "typical teen" drama: the fights, the constant cycle of breakups and reunions, the young man's retreat from social life after the breakup.

But as the couple's case shows, the line between adolescent drama and dating violence is a hard one to draw, especially in the moment.

Finding a new normal

Questions about what could've been done differently arose recently in Steubenville, Ohio, in Torrington, Connecticut, and in other communities where teen dating violence and sexual assault drew national attention. Blame bounces around the victim's clothes, the amount she drank, whether she "put herself in that situation," and to the perpetrators, parents and society for fostering a culture in which violence among teens - sexual and otherwise - makes regular headlines.

The Steubenville case, in which a teen was sexually assaulted as others watched, revived discussion around the importance of bystander education - teaching people to intervene safely in behavior that promotes sexual violence, said Tracy Cox with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

School violence prevention programs typically focus on risk-reduction by teaching girls not to be victims and boys not to be rapists, with no other roles to play. Even though bystander intervention not a new concept, some schools, advocacy groups and corporations are pushing it with renewed vigor in an effort to deter violence.

The goal is to challenge perceptions of "normal behavior" and make teens aware of the nuanced interactions that create a hostile climate

Read the full story

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Filed under: Counselors • High school • Massachusetts • Mental health • Parents • School safety • Students
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