Middle School Violence

People are more than numbers, but these numbers say a lot: In the 2005-2006 school year, 53% of school violence reports occurred in Massachusetts MIDDLE schools.

We have heard a lot about violence in high schools, but now, the focus is on middle schools. A number of school districts across the state have started middle school violence prevention programs. At-risk youth are being monitored at an ever earlier age. And in the age of the internet, school officials, counselors and administrators say that when the taunts and bullying begin on Myspace or FaceBook, the tensions are eventually brought into the classroom.

This week, we look at violence in middle schools, the programs, resources, and questions.

A Day in the Life of an Almost Middle School Teacher

Radio Boston's Claudine Ebeid once had dreams of being a teacher, but then discovered that those who can't teach, produce radio:

She writes: "I thought it would be fulfilling, a job I could handle, a way I could make a difference.  It could have been all those things, but instead it was an eye-opening and frightening experience that sent me fleeing the classroom..."

The No Bully Zone

Tewksbury, MA

At the John W. Wynn Middle School, the core curriculum includes a comprehensive anti-bullying program called Rachel's Challenge.

Rachel Scott was the first victim in the 1999 Columbine shootings. She was shot while eating lunch on the lawn with a friend.

Following her death, her family launched Rachel's Challenge. Based on a school assembly given by members of the Scott family and Columbine survivors, the program promotes five goals:

  1. Eliminate prejudice by looking for the best in others
  2. Dare to dream. Set goals. Keep a journal.
  3. Choose your influences. Input determines output.
  4. Kind words, small acts of kindness = Huge impact
  5. Start a chain reaction with family and friends.

These goals are at the center of education at the Wynn middle school. Radio Boston's Meghna Chakrabarti spent a day at the school to get a taste of life in the "no bully zone"...

The Guidance Counselor:  Adam Colontuoni

He's 31, and the kind of counselor I yearned for as a middle schooler. Middle school is about focusing a youthful combination of curiosity and impulsiveness, he said. On our walk down the halls, Colontuoni connected with every kid, knew everyone's names, and constantly reminded them, gently, that he's watching.

The Students:  Courtney, Nicole, Jonathan, Tyler

Eighth graders, members of the Rachel's Challenge "Teens against bullying" club, each of these students said that the climate in school changed immediately after the launch of Rachel's Challenge. However, one thing that hasn't changed, are the social pressures they face outside of school, and on the internet.

The Superintendent:  Christine McGrath

Programs like Rachel's Challenge, and the constant updating of "critical incident" plans across the district consume a larger portion of human, time and financial resources now than they did when McGrath started as superintendent 17 years ago. Yet, she says, the world has changed. Student safety is a priority.


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