Faced with disturbing data, Boston moves to calm fear, stop violence in schools

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Schools here aren't safe enough. But Boston officials are getting ready to do something about it, as they ponder these troubling new statistics:

* Fifty percent of 470 Boston teachers questioned recently have been victims of robbery, vandalism, assault, or theft; 38 percent of 500 students (in four selected high schools) have been victims during the past year.

* More than half of the students rated school buses as ''unsafe'' or ''somewhat unsafe,'' classifying them as scenes of ''disruptive behavior.''

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* Thirty-seven percent of the male students and 17 percent of the females said they come to school armed. High school teachers also reported that drugs and weapons were closely related in their schools.

These are some of the discoveries in a year-long investigation by the Boston Commission on Safe Public Schools. A 46-page report by the blue-ribbon group, headed by retired state Supreme Court Justice Paul C. Reardon, also suggests reforms. And school officials have responded with promises of immediate action.

The report, ''Making Our Schools Safe for Learning,'' urges that two steps be taken quickly to dispel the ''violence and fear'' in the city's 123 schools: first, a revision of the schools' lengthy disciplinary code; second, the placement of adult monitors on school buses.

Reforms are recommended in four major areas:

Discipline. The committee drafted a two-page, simplified disciplinary code designed to provide equitable treatment of students of all races. Long-term suggestions: develop alternatives to suspension, such as mediation; offer a learning program for suspended students; standardize suspension policies; set up discipline review committees at all schools.

Protection. Provide adult monitors on school buses and hold them accountable for student conduct. Classify as ''dangerous'' students found carrying weapons to a school, and expel them for one year. Assign security personnel to schools and more police to danger areas in the surrounding communities.

Prevention and support. Train teachers, staff members, and students on how to resolve conflicts within a school. Train the staff to identify and deal with students' problems. Assign health and social workers to schools.

The committee also asked that the media ''approach the reporting of violent incidents involving the schools with sensitive attention to the effects on students and staff not involved in those incidents.''

''We shall start immediately with a few short-range activities to reduce the danger in our schools,'' says Frank N. Jones, president of the Boston Committee, the agency commissioned to conduct the study.

''The school department is prepared to take steps to ease disciplinary problems at once,'' says Boston School Superintendent Robert B. Spillane, who requested the study.

''This report documents what we have observed - violence is diluting education offered to children in the city's public schools,'' Dr. Spillane says. ''We'll study the report thoroughly and try to implement as many of the reforms as we can.''

Foundations and corporations will be tapped for funds, especially on longer-range items, Mr. Jones says.

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