By LZ Granderson, CNN contributor
Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and was a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.
(CNN) - Each day more than 55 million students attend the country's 130,000 schools.
Each day, parents and guardians entrust some 7 million teachers with the education of our children.
And on a normal day, that is all we expect teachers to do - teach.
But on those not-so normal days we are reminded that for six hours a day and more, five days a week, teaching is not the only thing teachers are charged with doing. On those not-so-normal days, we are reminded that teachers are also asked to be surrogate parents, protectors, heroes.
Monday was one of those not-so-normal days.
The nation watched in horror as a 2-mile-wide tornado with winds up to 200 mph tore through Moore, Oklahoma. As sirens blared and the ground shook, the full force of the twister hit Plaza Towers Elementary School around 3 p.m. It was full of students, young scared children who had nowhere to hide as the tornado ripped off the roof, sending debris everywhere.
"We had to pull a car out of the front hall off a teacher and I don't know what her name is, but she had three little kids underneath her," a rescuer said. "Good job teach."
In Los Angeles, a program is trying to stop school violence by addressing teens' mental health. There's no predicting violent outbursts, the team says, and it's tough to watch out for L.A.'s nearly 700,000 students - but they feel like they've reached kids who probably wouldn't have gotten help, otherwise.
By Kevin Liptak, CNN
Washington (CNN) - A commission tasked by the nation's most influential gun lobby to assess school safety proposed a set of recommendations Tuesday that includes a plan to train and arm adults as a way to protect kids from shooters.
Former GOP congressman Asa Hutchinson, who headed the National Rifle Association-backed School Safety Shield, said the plan to train school personnel to carry firearms in schools made sense as a way to prevent shootings like the December massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
"Response time is critical," Hutchinson said at a press conference revealing the plan.
"If you have the firearms in the presence of someone in the school, it will reduce the response time and save lives," he said.
Hutchinson said the recommendation for school personnel to carry weapons includes the stipulation those adults undergo a 40-60 hour training program and are screened through a background check.
The entire report contains eight recommendations, including enhancing training programs for school resource officers and developing an online assessment portal for administrators to gauge their schools' security.
(CNN) - Camden, New Jersey, is not an easy place for a kid to grow up in.Just ask 15-year-old Destinee Williams."Camden has this reputation of being dangerous because you can walk outside at 3 in the afternoon and hear gunshots," Destinee said. "Gangs and drugs are a huge deal. Kids get into gangs to feel safe so they won't get killed."
Unfortunately, Destinee has had to deal with too many killings in her young life.
"My father was murdered in Camden last year, and my cousin was murdered (last month)," she said. "In the last month, I know of at least three people getting killed. In Camden, I expect it to happen. I'm not surprised anymore."
For many people, the violence in Camden can make it feel more like a war zone than an American city, but the battle doesn't end there.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 42% of Camden's population is living below the poverty line, making it one of the poorest cities in the United States. The New Jersey Department of Education reports that nearly 90% of Camden's schools are in the bottom 5% performance-wise in the state.
About 42% of Camden's population is living below the poverty line, making it one of the poorest cities in the United States.
"For too long, the public school system in Camden has failed its children," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday, when he announced the state would be taking over the city's schools. "Each day that it gets worse, we're failing the children of Camden, we're denying them a future, we're not allowing them to reach their full potential."
Camden may seem like a city without hope, but one of its native daughters is on a mission to change its downtrodden reputation and empower its youngest residents.
Tawanda Jones started a dance team, the Camden Sophisticated Sisters Drill Team, to entice young girls to stay off the street and do something positive with their lives. Over the years, she has incorporated boys into the team and also started a drum line program.
"People perceive Camden and its kids as garbage," Jones said. "We have so many gifted kids. They want more out of life. There's just nothing in our city to do. Therefore, what happens when a child has idle time and no positive way to channel that energy? They have to find something else. And it just may turn into the dark side."
Through the drill team, Jones aims to teach kids about discipline, dedication and self-respect, things she believes are necessary to survive and thrive in this rough community and beyond.
"Whether you need it for work, you need it for school, you need discipline, period," said Jones, 40. "Drill team is good as far as structure, because you have to be precise. You have to be on point."
"If they get too many Cs, we put them on academic probation," Jones said. "We don't want to kick a child out because they're not doing well in school, so on my days off I go to the child's school just to correspond with the teacher. I'll just make sure that the child is doing well or (see) what we can do on our end to help that child get to where she needs to be."
By John S. Wilson, Special to CNN
Editor's note: John S. Wilson is a contributing writer for Forbes, Huffington Post and Black Enterprise. He frequently writes about health and education policies and politics. He's on Twitter at @johnwilson.
(CNN) – When I was around 12 or 13, one of just a few black students in my entire grade, a substitute teacher made inappropriate remarks about slavery. When I got home, I just knew my mother would do something about it; this was a woman who visited my school as though she had to punch a clock.
She listened, said the teacher was wrong, and that was it. No angry phone calls, no marching to the school, no request for anyone to be reprimanded or fired. I was shocked. But she told me that my school didn’t share the same values as that teacher, and she was confident the unfortunate incident was temporary but the values the school instilled were permanent.
That’s what a school’s mission is all about: permanency. Instilling character that cannot be tarnished by temporary incidents - even when very offensive – over which it has little control.
But Oberlin College in Ohio made a very poor decision this week. Classes were canceled in response to a rash of racist and anti-gay incidents aimed at students and a student’s report she had seen someone on campus dressed in a white hooded robe. (Police said they received a report of a student wearing a blanket, but couldn’t say whether the incidents were related.)
On Monday, the campus held a “Day of Solidarity,” which consisted of diversity programming, an Africana teach-in, and what Meredith Gadsby, chairwoman of the Africana Studies Department, called “positive propaganda.” If you're at a loss for exactly what that is, think a collegiate version of a “Sesame Street” marathon, minus Oscar the Grouch.
Oberlin passed up an opportunity. Instead of canceling classes, they should have continued normal business while finding ways to draw upon their incredibly strong history of diversity and inclusion.
By canceling classes and generally overreacting - let's face it, racism and baseless discriminatory scrawls on posters and walls will never go away - Oberlin is only sheltering students, instead of assisting them to overcome adversity, an action that would truly fortify their character. What example does this set for students, many of whom will soon be in the workforce? If a supervisor or co-worker offends them, who will be there then to host their day of solidarity?
By CNN Staff
Oberlin, Ohio (CNN) - A day after students at Oberlin College put down their books to focus on how to respond to a spate of hate messages targeting blacks, Jews and gays on campus, classes resumed Tuesday amid tension.
The messages included graffiti with swastikas, posters containing racial slurs and other derogatory statements targeting various student communities and fliers bearing racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic language.
A student's report on Monday that she had seen someone on campus dressed like a member of the Ku Klux Klan led the school to suspend classes for the day.
"I saw someone in what seemed to be KKK paraphernalia walking on a pathway, like, a pathway that leads to South Campus," the student, Sunceray Tavler, told CNN affiliate WJW. "Just seeing that and having that sink in, this is something that's real, that actually happens."
Police said they received a report of a student wearing a blanket on his or her shoulders but could not say whether the incidents were related.
Two students have been identified as being involved in the postings from February and will be subject to college disciplinary procedures, Oberlin police said.
Oberlin President Marvin Krislov said he was not able to discuss the details of the ongoing investigation. "It is a law enforcement matter," he told CNN.
He praised Monday's campuswide focus on the matter, calling it "an educational moment." The students "feel inspired because this institution has the courage to talk about these issues and to confront concerns and that that is part of our educational mission," he said.
By Laura Ly, CNN
(CNN) - Oberlin College in Ohio suspended classes Monday after a student reported seeing a person resembling a Ku Klux Klan member near the college's Afrikan Heritage House.
The sighting of the person wearing a white hood and robe was reported early Monday morning and follows a string of recent hate incidents on Oberlin's campus that have ignited shock and confusion among the student body.
"Since the beginning, there's been anger, frustration, sadness and fear, but we've been working toward a concentrated effort toward change," said Eliza Diop, 20, a politics and Africana Studies major who serves on the college student senate and is a resident of the Afrikan Heritage House, which offers programs focused on the African diaspora, according to the college's website.
Oberlin College is a small liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, with almost 3,000 students. An emergency meeting among the college's officials was immediately called after the report.
In lieu of classes, college administrators asked students, faculty and staff to "gather for a series of discussions of the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks," a statement on Oberlin's website said.
"We hope today will allow the entire community — students, faculty, and staff —to make a strong statement about the values that we cherish here at Oberlin: inclusion, respect for others, and a strong and abiding faith in the worth of every individual," the statement said.
The programming included a campuswide teach-in led by Meredith Gadsby, an associate professor and chairwoman of the Africana Studies Department; a collective demonstration of solidarity, including musical performances by campus groups and speeches by campus leaders; and a community convocation entitled "We Stand Together."
(CNN) - Nearly three-fourths of the nation's teachers say they personally would not bring a firearm to their school if allowed, but most educators believe armed guards would improve campus safety, a new survey showed.
Since the December massacre by a lone gunman in Newtown, Connecticut, many schools have hastened to add safety measures in an effort to prevent similar violence.The most common step since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead has been ensuring that all doors are locked, teachers said.
Of the nearly 11,000 educators surveyed nationwide, most said they generally feel safe in their schools, but disagreed on whether their workplaces were safe from gun violence.
Nearly four in 10 school superintendents who responded said their schools were not safe from gun violence, slightly higher than the 31% of teachers who felt their schools were not safe.
January's online survey was conducted by School Improvement Network, a for-profit company that specializes in professional development for educators and partners with schools, districts, and educators.
Some 72.4% of educators said they would be unlikely to bring a firearm to school if allowed to do so.
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - The drama began last week when a gunman boarded a Dale County, Alabama, school bus, shot and killed the driver and grabbed a 5-year-old boy. It ended days later with the boy, Ethan, rescued from a bunker where he was held hostage, and his 65-year-old abductor dead.
Now that Ethan is safe, even celebrating his 6th birthday this week, officials are poring over the details of how the case unfolded, starting on the school bus.
It played out over 4½ minutes, a scene captured by a camera mounted at the front of the bus. It's a security measure common on buses now.
Witnesses and officials who reviewed the recording said Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded the bus with a gun and handed a note to the driver demanding to take several children. The driver, Charles Poland, refused. He stood, placing himself between the gunman and the students.
Meanwhile, older students opened an emergency exit on the back of the bus and ran away from the bus. They knew what to do: Twice-per-year emergency drills reminded them how to evacuate.
Follow CNN's Schools of Thought blog on Twitter, @CNNschools.
By CNN staff
(CNN) - Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s team will participate in a simulated school shooting as a training exercise, with help from a special celebrity guest, according to a statement.
Along with instructors, actor Steven Seagal will lead the simulation, to take place in the Arizona county on Saturday, February 9.
Seagal, who has made a name for himself headlining action movies such as “Above the Law” and Under Seige,” will help educate 40 armed volunteers on room-entry tactics and hand-to-hand tactics, the statement says.
It's one of several new school security events and strategies districts across the country are trying after the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
What do you think? Is it helpful to have star power, or distracting from real issues of school security? Share your thoughts in the comments.