Oklahoma District Addresses Aggravated Assaults In Schools
OKLAHOMA CITY - Aggravated assaults, student on student, it's happening in Oklahoma's schools. We pulled the data and found last year alone, more than 1,700 incidents. What's more alarming is the that most of those assaults occur inside some of the youngest classrooms.
At Rockwood Elementary School in Oklahoma City, Principal Sheryl Barnett tracks more than her student's grades.
"In the heat of the moment when a child is angry they don't always have that ability to stop and think,' she said.
She's following a disturbing trend of aggression. Physical violence that she's labeling as an aggravated assault.
"A kid might push or kick or hit," she said. "When you have to face the hard truth about how kids perform, sometimes the numbers look really sad."
Out of Oklahoma City's 55 elementary schools, Rockwood topped the list in the number of student on student aggravated assaults at 14 last year. However, Barnett said in most of those assaults, the student targeted was not severely injured and the incidents never involved police. She purposefully labeled the incidents as aggravated assaults to track one sided events.
"It isn't a bloody mess where one kid beats another one down," she clarified. "You may have a kindergartener who gets angry and doesn't know how to deal with it, so he just turns around and kicks a kid in line, well that's one sided so we wrote it up as an assault."
District leaders believe the trend of aggressiveness among elementary students is reflective of what's happening in Oklahoma.
"The stability of a child rests at their home," said Charles Tompkins, OKCPS Dir. of School Climate and Student Discipline. "We are ranked in the top of the nation as far as divorces, single parent households, domestic violence, and the more prevalent that is in our communities, the more prevalent it manifests itself in our schools."
At Centennial high school, Principal
Tamie Sanders has worked hard to turn bad behavior around by first understanding "why" they're acting out.
"Kids don't wanna be bad," she said. "If bad things are happening in their neighborhood when they come to school they are afraid, so they're on edge, so they're agitated."
Sanders says what's worked is having her teachers and staff build relationships with the students.
"When they are in conflict, if they know us and we know them, the intervention is just a 'hey come with me.' and talk them down, calm them down, have them breathe through it," Sanders said.
Sanders also hired a full-time crisis counselor who sees about 20 kids a day, while Paco, a service dog, visits the students twice a week. It's these strategies Barnett is working to implement in her school, to see the same success.
"We're developing that expectation of when you are angry you will use words, when you need assistance you will ask the teacher, when you cannot speak to someone appropriately you step away," Barnett said. "That's our main focus, learning what we can do to take that next step make sure that they're safe."
To see the breakdown, click here.