The Windy Hill
Violence at MHS Rare But Never CondonedWednesday, May 05, 2010 By Elisabeth Leister
Although March 22-26 was Youth Violence Prevention Week, MHS students don’t have too much violence to prevent, according to Vice Principal Mr. Bontempo. He said students here, for the most part, seek out better ways to resolve issues with one another. ‘I think we have so little violence because most of the students here realize that violence is not an acceptable solution. It doesn’t actually resolve any issues. It just escalates them into more violence. I think the kids here are much smarter than average, and they can identify the cause of the issue causing the conflict and then figure out a way to truly resolve the problem so that it no longer exists,’ he said. Mr. Creeden, another one of MHS’s assistant principals, said that all of the teachers are trained in Restorative Practices, which helps in the prevention of violence at school. ‘Restorative Practices helps schools like MHS build a positive school community while dramatically reducing insubordinate or violent behavior. In a restorative environment, restorative strategies such as affective statements, affective questions, and small or large conferences are employed proactively. These strategies help build positive relationships and a strong sense of community.’ Teens prone to aggressive acts sometimes share common threads: they are often angry, use drugs or alcohol, regularly threaten others, and may enjoy hurting animals or people. If a student recognizes that someone they know has such characteristics, then he or she may want to communicate his or her concerns with a professional. For instance, speaking with guidance counselors or teachers may be step one. Such a step will more than likely result in an intervention with the troubled teen. Another first option for MHS students may be to fill out a form from SAP, a program designed to aid students with overcoming their problems. ‘Students should immediately report violence, threats of violence, or escalating conflict that might result in violence to the closest adult they can find. When we are able to stop a conflict before it becomes a fight, the consequences are much less for everyone involved. That’s how you can do your friends the biggest favor,’ said Mr. Bontempo. Reporting friends may be awkward, but Mr. Bontempo explains that the alternatives can sometimes be less than attractive. ‘When issues turn into fights we must call the State Police and parents in. Things get much more serious and expensive. Students should do the right thing for themselves and their friends and let your assistant principals know when things are getting out of hand,’ said Mr. Bontempo. Most teenagers are subjected to violence at one time or another. At MHS, students are exposed to 10 - 15 violent acts such as physical fights, robbery, and extreme bullying, per year as opposed to West Philadelphia High School. In 2007, there were 23 fires set inside the building as well as a series of assaults on teachers and staff which led to the replacement of the school’s principal.