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Help needed for Connetquot School District

What the regular news will tell you is that, at Connequot High School on Long Island, New York,  a 17-year-old former student, and a 16-year-old current student were involved in a plot to do shootings at the school. Then, the AP story and the regular news will go on and on with details of their plot and descriptions to make you dislike these two young people.

What most news stories are ignoring or skipping over, is that Connetquot School District had a similar incident in 2007. That time it was two, current students, both young men, age 15 and 17, with a bomb scare.

[Update/Correction on 5/10/2010] : The news is now reporting that the young man from this planned attack, is the same young man who was part of the 2007 planned attack (the 15 years old). Which still leaves one additional young man, and one young woman who were willing to consider such an attack.

It appears that it is time for someone at Connetquot School District to drop what they are doing, and drop what they are focusing on, and get to the bottom line mission of every school: Keep the students safe.

In this case, it is clear, that doing that means: Create a sense of community in the school. Address feelings of isolation and anger that the adolescents there feel. Make an environment  where students are doing productive and happy things, so that they would never dream of creating a bad scene or doing violence to the community. (Imagine a place where THREE teenagers would be inspired to such a level of violence? What kind of a place would that happen? )

I hope people will reflect on various ways to make the school safer, the children more happy and empowered, and the community tight knit.

The Connetquot community should look into Small Schools to solve the problems at their district.

One very good suggestion, that matches the history of the district, is to create a smaller school. Big schools create anomie for students, a sense of isolation and loneliness, kind of like a song about someone feeling lost in a big city. Living in a big institutions all day, with too many folks to really know, causes people to build walls and create stereotypes, in order to try to process all the strangers streaming by them in hallways.

Wikipedia has some interesting history about Connetquot School District. To me, this history shows that like many school on Long Island, it was a problem and not a strength to consolidate and become a huge school district. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, people merged school districts with a dream that it would streamline services and save money. I think it is horrible for the students, because they get lost in a bigger institution and the money savings are never realized (partly because administrators with bigger and bigger ambitions and salaries seem to hover around.)

Wikipedia notes:

In 1960, with continuing suburban growth, voters in the existing Oakdale-Bohemia and Ronkonkoma school districts voted to consolidate their two districts, which paved the way for construction of a high school.

In January 1962, the entire district was shuttered for a week due to an outbreak of scarlet fever.

Doesn’t that just sound like a “sign from the heavens” type thing, that so many students shouldn’t be shuddered up together? If the school consolidated and built a big new building, and two years later, an outbreak of Scarlet Fever gets out of control, maybe someone should have noted the systems issue of big institutions for children. Well, they didn’t get it. But, we could learn the lesson in this decade. These schools are too big to keep the children in them healthy and safe.

Now that I have looked closely at the Connetquot School District, because it must be addressed that it happened there, twice, with three students involved, I would also say this: A lot of the school districts on Long Island have similar problems. And, a lot of the school districts in the country have similar problems. Big institutions are not good for people. But, they are worse for children. Our public schools are so caught up with the culture of money and greed, that they are not always the healthiest place for children. Parents and teachers and staff who care, should constantly be encouraging and nurturing children to stay human and have community inside schools.

Update on another school district: Newsday notes that on Monday, May 10th, a vague, threatening note was found in a student bathroom at Commack High School, also on Long Island, New York.

It should also be noted, that with the current economic crisis, there has been some talk about more schools on Long Island consolidating to save money. Before you let that happen in your district, study the real history of schools like Connetquot that have consolidated. The money savings are mere projections. The affect on students and morale can be devastating. Children should not be pawns in our tax schemes.

I wanted to share two essay-type poems I wrote that try to communicate some of this message. The first is about why school massacres happen, and how the community should respond. The second hints at the positive ways to build community and nurture humanity at school.

_________

Jonesboro Public School Massacre

Four children and a teacher died.
Let us learn.

Let us force ourselves,
allow ourselves,
to measure, scrutinize, judge
the forces that influenced two young boys
to murder their peers.

Let us consider:

A school system called compulsory
pulling in younger and younger citizens of a free society.

An educational system dumping human beings
as delicate and sacred as our children into the public domain,
with adversarial unions, calculating insurance companies,
looming lawsuits, the right to bear arms.

A concept of professionalism
luring us in with status and money,
rewarding teachers and specialists
by crowning them pawns of the marketplace,
rewarding our children by creating new classes of adults
scurrying about them, not caring.

Let us weigh:

An acceptance of divorce
leaving troubled young boys unsupported in distant cities.
a system of divorce which makes it
embarrassing to celebrate Father’s Day in our classrooms.

Let us examine:

A culture of guns, more pervasive than philosophy:
rainbow colored action figures aiming at children in toy stores;
sociopathic gun lobbies;
leftover Klan hate;
television violence babysitting latchkey kids.

A culture more comfortable defending violence
than discussing its implications with their own children.

We do not need to show mercy to
government, the media, gun factories, institutions, or laws.
They are not human.
They should be evaluated, censured, vilified–
destroyed if necessary, when they cause pain and death.

We only have to forgive two young boys
ensnared in our web of catastrophe.

And as for the adults involved–
parents, teachers, judges, lobbyists,
(ourselves) –
we can learn from them, preach to them, argue with them,
blame them,
before we give them their due:

Forgiveness, yes.
But, judgment, too.

by: Kimberly I. Marie Wilder
written: 1998
graduate of: Sachem High School

_________
_________

Where To Go To School

Go to a school that is small, if you can.

Go to a school where the leaders are wise and happy and care about you.
Maybe they even know you.
Go to a school with a mission:
Religion or football
PTA dances or class gardens–anything.
The focus will draw people together.

Go to a school where if you are crying on the bus the first day,
They will let your mommy drive you instead.
Or, the bus driver will coax you with a friendly smile.
Or, maybe there is no bus at all.

Go to a school where people can see you for yourself
It would be ideal if there were no grades.
But, at least, when you make something, people appreciate it.
Go to a school where if you are bad,
They will first take your temperature,
Explore your feelings,
Do anything besides secluding or drugging you.

Go to a school where your mom and dad feel welcome.
Well, maybe they started the school, or maybe the parents run it.
Certainly, the teachers respect them and encourage them to visit.
Go to a school that allows you to hold onto your Truth,
Where you can feel safe and be safe,
Until you are old enough to create your own security.

Look for a school with lots of real books.
Books are almost always filled with magic pebbles or friendly animals.
Some books even have stories that speak to your heart,
Stories the old people used to tell children when we all lived together as families.

Look for a school with lots of:
Windows, teddy bears, green plants, smiling grown-ups, and good food.
Where you can feel:
Believed, nurtured, respected, valued, listened to.

And,
When you grow up, find a
Neighborhood, community, workplace, and family that
Helps you feel this way, too.

by: Kimberly I. Marie Wilder
written: 1998
graduate of: Sachem High School

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