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Ramsey County Safe Schools Task Force Releases Final Report

March 09, 2017 10:29 PM

Dramatic cell phone videos show chaos erupting during large fights in Ramsey County schools over the past year-and-a-half. In at least two cases, teachers were injured.

The response was in part on display Thursday as Ramsey County Attorney John Choi released the final report of the Community Task Force on Safe Schools.

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The 39-member task force, comprised of parents, teachers, students, school resource officers, youth workers and school administrators, met over the course of seven months to tackle the challenge of understanding and addressing the struggles youth face in community and school settings.  

The final report includes the following five recommendations to promote safe schools:

  •      Build healthy relationships with youth 
  •      Enhance proactive, positive approaches to prevent and respond to conflict and challenging behavior 
  •      Share and improve data across systems 
  •      Increase parent/guardian support, education and relationships
  •      Improve training, hiring, development and learning of adults working and living with youth 

"These are not just school problems," Choi said. "I think we need to look at how we relate to our kids today and some of the challenges they have."

Choi said the report found a disproportionate number of students involved in disciplinary incidents are African American, and that finding ways to speak more openly about race will be important to making the proposals effective.

The report also recommends the use of more "restorative practices." In practice, this could mean offering students more counseling or ordering community service instead of suspending them from school.

"And if you think about a suspension, what does that really accomplish -- the kids are not in school right?" Choi said. "And so there are other ways of processing things that might have occurred. Of course we want accountability, but there are other ways to change behavior."

RELATED: St. Paul School District Sued by Teacher Injured in Fight 

"If the people who are committing these crimes don't buy in, it's not going to work," said Mark Ross of the St. Paul Police Federation.

Ross worked as a school resource officer. He said many of the report's recommendations are already in place at many schools. He also said putting some of the proposals into effect will be easier said than done. Ross said that in his experience, for some troubled students, restorative practices won't work.

"In their mind, it's just a way to get off with a lesser penalty, and they'll just continue to engage in the same types of activities," Ross said.

RELATED: St. Paul Teachers Say They Were Told Not to Call Police About Student Assaults

Ross also worries fewer suspensions could end up hurting the victims of crimes.

"And victims have rights also," Ross said. "So you have to look at the victim's perspective of how they feel about coming back to school every day with the same person who did something awful to them."

Credits

Matt Belanger

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