What is teachers' role in violence prevention?

By , Elizabeth Reichert, Alistair Budd, and Judah M. Rosenfeld

As a school teacher, I must object to a statement made in "Teachers' difficult role in preventing violence" (April 26). The article says, "Certainly, teachers are not solely to blame for incidents of school violence."

Not solely to blame?

While I realize the thrust of the article was to present ideas on how educators can notice and react to student behavior that may present a threat to school safety, a statement such as this is inexcusable. Never forget that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, as well as any other individuals whom further investigation may turn up, were "solely to blame" for the terrible and deadly deeds done at Columbine High School.

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In the aftermath of this tragedy, the media will engage in its usual handwringing over how to have prevented it. Point your fingers at movie and television studios that glorify violence, easy access to weapons, and society's decline in values. Teachers will continue to do our best in dealing with students who display a potential for harmful actions. However, responsibility for violent actions rests first and foremost with the perpetrators of such violence.

Robert Kerr, Hastings, Neb.

I was disappointed and surprised to note The Christian Science Monitor would hold me partially responsible for any violence directed against me by my students.

The author points out that teachers' responsibility to monitor students is a difficult one, as "teachers may instruct upwards of 100 students." In my district, teachers instruct 160 students a day. Nevertheless, the message is that teachers must carry some blame for the violence at their schools.

Today's schools are charged with meeting a variety of student needs once thought to be a parent's responsibility. The teachers in my district oversee assemblies on substance abuse, HIV awareness, student motivation, and sexual harassment. We chaperone student gatherings such as dances, rallies, and athletic events. We also manage to squeeze in some academics.

I doubt that the parents of the students who commit acts of violence can say the same. They share three times the amount of time with their children, and inhabit the very premises where the plans and weapons are assembled. In a society where violence is entertainment, and parenting is an afterthought, we cannot continue to look to teachers to carry the blame for the result.

Elizabeth Reichert, Phoenix, Ariz.

Advice for a new citizen

As a British citizen living in the Midwest I appreciated the opinion page essay entitled "On becoming American" (April 30). The author wonders if she dares to try buttermilk. My advice - freely given after a less-than-inspiring initiation - is to stick with fresh milk. US supermarkets are full of wonderful things, but buttermilk isn't one of them.

Alistair Budd, Elsah, Ill.

Bow-tie virtue

As a longtime member of the Bow Tie Wearers Chowder and Marching Society, I was elated to read "A solitary soldier leads the bow-tie brigade" (April 22).

The author caught the essence of joy that comes with the bow tie. At all times the wearer of the butterfly is well-groomed, and he presents to the world both his self-confidence and independence of spirit. The world about him seems more lively and joyous.

We bow-tiers are members of one fraternity. We admire each other's tie and we welcome new converts to our group. I have been stopped many a time on the streets of Manhattan by strangers -male and female. They compliment my taste and style. I am always modest, but I love it.

Judah M. Rosenfeld, New York

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