School Violence Prevention

Stephen Thom

CRS Mediator, Los Angeles Office

[Full Interview]

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Go back to that school situation where they had been having riots for seven years. Was that an active case for you for a while?

It still is. I've been in that particular school district for several years. The school disturbance took place in 1998 and the Human Relations Commission and I got together and decided that we wanted to see what the seniors of 2002 thought about the riot of 1998 when they were freshmen. One of the strategies we use after civil disturbances on campuses is to do an assessment of the juniors and the seniors, and we do that for particular reasons. For one, we want to know what they think was the cause. What did they do while the disturbance was taking place? What should they have done? How could they help? So we do a combination of an assessment and plant seeds to make them partners in restoring calm to the school. That's why we do it with juniors and seniors, because we want the older students to be partners with us, to try and put some pressure on some of the younger students to see whether we can defuse tensions. We do that in classrooms. We bring in a team of people so we hit all the juniors and all the seniors to try to see if we can line them up and be partners in trying to quell a school crisis. That's what we did in '98, meaning we didn't really talk to the freshman and sophomores. So we said, we'd better go back and talk to them as seniors and see what their points of view were, because we were so busy trying to squash any element of violence, we really didn't take time to meet with the freshmen. Usually the seniors will blame the freshman anyway, and what we learned from the review was that the seniors were actually challenging the freshman to take to first step, to cause it. And all those kinds of things we learned subsequently. So that's another approach we've used. In Inglewood, we promised the superintendent that we would go back there for the next 5 years to make sure there weren't any more civil disturbances. So we've been on that campus for the last 4 years, and it's gone smoothly.