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More action needed to bolster good behavior

February 27, 2012

I took rather personally the debacle at the church, where the funeral of a teenage murder victim attracted a large crowd of youths and a ruckus among them brought police rushing to the scene. I live nearby. My synagogue is about 50 yards from the church. My neighbors and my family don’t like visitors like these kids in our still-pretty-solid neighborhood.

The next morning, I was in the library at Bradley Tech as about 20 students from Tech and Vincent High School demonstrated the “restorative justice” program that helps them deal with problems and resolve disputes constructively. They were celebrating a $90,000 grant from AT&T to support that program and a program aimed at boosting math success.

….Ideally, of course, a great family life provides the main influence to head kids toward good choices. But this isn’t an ideal world. Teachers and other school employees often find themselves with the potential to be influential in a young person’s life. Many of them succeed at that. But the needs outstrip what is possible, especially when the number of adults in many schools is going down each year.

I applaud Milwaukee Public Schools for trying a lot of things – a new “positive behavior” approach to discipline in most schools, an array of efforts under a program called the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative and so on. There have been some encouraging signs. But the need is greater than what is being offered.

I applaud community programs – after-school centers, Boys & Girls clubs, Y’s and others. Many of them offer good settings and good influences. But again, the need is greater.

I applaud the philanthropists and grant-makers and corporate good citizens who fuel efforts of this kind. But there’s so much more to do.

I applaud people like David Lerman, a now-retired assistant district attorney who has made it a deep personal commitment for years to build the restorative justice effort in schools.

….I felt last week that between the dismay over Tuesday’s funeral and the hopefulness of Wednesday’s restorative circle, I was straddling a deep valley of need. But I also felt the possibility of meeting a lot of that need. As the girl said, we need to do more to bring the troublemakers – and those who could follow their paths – into the circle.

Read the whole article.


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