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We must create a culture of respect

Posted: November 20, 2008 9:18 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2008 4:55 a.m.
The tragedy (student suicide) at Vasquez High School filled me with sadness and anger. Anger because we don't simply have to watch as kids are brutalized day after day.

Schools can make a difference - and it's not about detention, it's about prevention!

One of my twin sons has special needs, so he was enrolled in Mrs. Minch's class at La Mesa Junior High School. Using programs like Yes I Can, she linked her students with kids in regular education and he made friends.

As his skills and confidence grew, he moved into more mainstream classes. He became a peer tutor to a young man in a wheelchair who can only speak with assisted technology.

My son was also involved in a program called Ambassadors for Peace, which trained students to recognize harassment and manage conflicts.

Valencia High School Principal Paul Priesz and his excellent staff have been proactive in fostering a positive and inclusive school climate. I commend them.

My other son received a solid education at another local junior high, but the contrasts were striking.

Teachers and administrators were openly at odds. Communication with parents was fragmented. While my son had several great teachers, I personally heard some teachers speak to him in sarcastic, demeaning tones.

The common cruelty of children seemed often to go unchecked.

For instance, a group of kids would goad a socially awkward teen to dance so they could record him on their cell phones and laugh.

Other students were mocked for their religious beliefs. When my son related these incidents, his brother said, "That would never happen at my school."

This may not literally be true; bullying can occur anywhere. But isn't it what we hope all of our children would say?

We can create a culture of acceptance and respect. We must.


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