By David Webster
In an ever-changing society, our students are faced with many more challenges than we had to face in school. I am speaking for myself and my age; I know some of you are as old as I am and some are younger, but the challenges still existed. We had choices to make, just as students do today, but those choices were along the lines of which games would we play at recess; should I or shouldn’t I chew gum in class; what to pick for lunch; whether I could be the one that led the Pledge, or led the prayer before lunch or at a school event. We never thought about a future that would include the sadistic, criminally inhumane things that are going on in our society today. How it has reached this point is beyond me.
We as board members have to find ways to help the students we have in our schools today and our future students find a way and means to cope with the issues and pressures they are facing. They don’t just face these issues outside the schools but inside also: They have crept into the buildings little by little just like an insect looking for a place to hide. Eventually the insect will show itself, just the way the outside pressures manifest themselves as good things and entice students to partake of what is being offered. There is peer pressure to push them into doing things they normally wouldn’t do. This leads to a darker side of the pressures in the form of bullying, drugs, making threats, sexting, sexual harassment and alcohol abuse. These are present not just in our high schools, but starting in our earliest elementary school grades.
We create policy to try and deal with these issues. We bring in drug dogs, school resource officers, pupil personnel directors. We are always looking for a small light that may help in all these problems. But they still seem ever-so-present. Every effort we can make to curb this is a step in the right direction, though.
In our middle school in Simpson County, we have been using a program for our seventh grade as one of these steps in the right direction. It is a program called STOP, which stands for Students Targeting Outside Pressures. It essentially targets behaviors that have occurred in and around our area, with volunteers playing the role of parents, plus real-life officials – such as school administrators, judges, sheriff’s deputies and jailers – carrying out their “duties” in scenarios that are presented to students. The scenarios illustrate behaviors such as theft, drug use, bullying, inappropriate touching and various forms of violence.
The STOP Program allows students to walk through the process that would be followed if they actually committed something like the scenario described, from seeing the principal to the expulsion hearing before the school board; or from appearing before a judge to going to jail – handcuffs included. The mock proceedings are followed by a debriefing.
Does it work or even help a little? We can only hope so. I know that in the years I have been involved in this program I have seen one student pass out and many students cry because an exercise was so realistic they felt as though it really was happening to them. I know that the students’ eyes are opened to the scenario’s consequences by the expression on their face when you tell them they are expelled.
No matter the outcome, it is our duty as school board members to provide resources, however small they may be, to help to keep our students safe in and out of school. Reach out and help as many students as you can.
“Aspire To Inspire Before You Expire”