Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Maybe Joe Clark Was Right: Firsthand Experience with a Threatening High School Campus Changed My Thoughts on School Security

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Maybe Joe Clark Was Right: Firsthand Experience with a Threatening High School Campus Changed My Thoughts on School Security

Article excerpt

IT SEEMS A SHAME to use ed tech funds on security rather than instructional tools, but basic needs take precedence. I came to this point of view in college, during my internship teaching at a high school. My students appeared to be straight out of the movie Lean on Me, before Morgan Freeman stepped in. Freeman's character was based on Principal Joe Clark, who chained the doors on Eastside High School in Paterson, NJ, to protect the students who wanted to succeed. Since the chains violated the fire code, they weren't a workable solution, but they symbolized Clark's unconventional, tough-love dedication to turning around that ship of urban decay.

I started student-teaching filled with idealism, but soon my own thinking ran along the lines of locks and chains, in one month, a student threatened to kill his teacher over a quiz grade. Another student took a bat to windshields in the faculty parking lot. And when I asked the lead teacher why our classroom always had an odor, she explained that while a sub was on duty, a student had urinated on the carpet. Additionally, drug deals and violence in the halls were routine.

A more practical response than chains was in order. Metal detectors to at least keep weapons out of school would have been a start, but policy interfered. For example, I saw an administrator challenge a student, who knew the man had no real recourse and ran. The man chased the student and almost caught him, snagging him momentarily by his backpack. My lead teacher told me the administrator was out of line--not only were faculty members not allowed to touch students, even touching that backpack was forbidden. Maybe the man eventually tracked down the student and pegged him with detention, but that and suspension were the only disciplinary options, and they didn't seem to act as deterrents. …

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