Educators should keep an eye out for trouble

The people who are closest to potential problem students should bear some responsibility when something goes wrong, Carson City lawmaker Bonnie Parnell said Friday.

"We really need to empower the people within the school setting to realize that they're the ones to recognize the signs of school violence," Parnell said.

"We see children interacting with other students," she said. "We see things like bullying."

Parnell is one of two legislators on the statewide commission on school safety and juvenile justice. She was the keynote speaker for a workshop on managing students with problem behavior at the Ormsby House.

She spoke to nearly 100 educators from Northern Nevada gathered at the Ormsby House Friday night

"We are in a position where we can really spot some of the warning signs," the Carson City teacher said. "The wonderful thing about a lot of the prevention programs is that we can do so many things without having a high price tag."

Parnell pointed to a new mentoring program with the Boys & Girls Club of Nevada.

"Mentoring is one of the proven top 10 most successful programs for juvenile (dealing with) violence," she said. "If you have a mentoring program it is pretty cost effective. I like to look at things like that instead of grandiose solutions."

She said Carson City has done well in establishing a safety plan.

"We can never stop trying to prevent the problem," she said.

Parnell is seeking her second term in the Nevada Legislature and is a career teacher.

She was named Nevada Teacher of the Year in 1998 and Carson City Educator of the Year in 1997. She is a mother of two sons and teaches at Carson Middle School.

Oregon educational consultant Geoff Colvin is the presenter for the workshop.

Colvin has a doctorate and is a research associate at the University of Oregon and is supervisor of special services in Bethel School District in Eugene, Ore.

He said zero-tolerance policies have resulted in more damage at schools than the activities they are designed to prevent.

"Schools get sued over shootings, but they are never found liable," he said. "But schools have lost millions over suits about students thrown out for violating policies."

He said the schools need to develop policies that allow them to work with troublemakers while still providing an environment where students can learn and grow.

"Need to make sure we put the support is put around the kids who need it," he said. "One extreme is to turn schools into correctional facilities. It is important that we not ignore safety, but we have to still keep making school a welcome place to learn."

He said schools that have invested heavily in material security have not seen a substantial improvement in violent behavior.

However, those schools which have increased student participation have seen an improvement.

The conference continues today.


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