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Students take a stance on school safety, discipline

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and local youth organizations regularly condemn metal detectors and policing of schools, saying they make students feel like criminals. So I was surprised when I was in the Bronx last week and heard students saying something different.

I was at a workshop at a conference on youth violence prevention, and participants were asked to cross the room if they agreed with statements by the facilitator, move to the middle if they weren’t sure or partly agreed, and stay on the other side if they disagreed.

Nearly all the students crossed the room, indicating they agreed, in response to two questions related to NYCLU’s campaign: Should the city have a curfew for teenagers, and should the city schools have metal detectors?

Although students in the workshop crossed the room in favor of them, other students I spoke to later expressed concerns about whether metal detectors really keep schools safe. Their views are after the jump.

Gabriela Tenesa, a 10th grader at Bronx International High School, said she thought the metal detectors in her school were an invasion of privacy, and tended to catch good students for small infractions rather than those who truly posed a threat.

“You have to open your bag in front of everybody and everyone can see what you have inside,” added Johann Lopez, also of Bronx International.

Whether they think metal detectors help keep them safe or make them feel like criminals, “young people really want to be part of the solution – they feel very much that programs are done to them, decisions are made about them, but they are the ones who are really feeling the brunt of the violence,” said Marcy May of Effective Alternative in Reconciliation Services (EARS), one of the organizations convening the event.

Organizers are planning at least two additional meetings to bring together youth who are interested in working on bringing conflict resolution programs to their schools and on other ideas brought up at the conference.

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