At my school there’s over 4,000 kids and you’re pretty much on your own. There’s no one you could talk to. If they see violence they [teachers and administrators] don’t talk about it. They act as if it doesn’t happen or sometimes they’ll just simply threaten us, saying that they’re gonna split our lunches or we’re gonna take away your snack, which they’ve already done and it’s kinda like what more do we have left? You’re gonna stop feeding us? Britawnya, 17, Warren High School in Downey
I think more understanding from the teachers [would help], because at my school a lot of students feel like some of the teachers don’t get what they’re going through and they just think that everything is OK so why aren’t you getting the good grades. The teachers that do put more understanding and try to speak to students, they really end up helping a lot of people that I’ve known change and it was because of them, because the teachers took the time to understand and not just pick on them like you know, why aren’t you doing this why aren’t you doing that, get out of my class, you’re acting up. Solange, 17, Leuzinger HS, Lawndale
Around that area there are like the Crips and the Bloods …..so there’s always violence no matter what time of day. Just yesterday there was a fight about to break out in the morning as soon as I was walking to school. It gets tiring after a while. It has to stop. I mean I want to go on and get out of here and move on with my life and this violence and gangs it’s not letting me do what I want, it gets in my way. Juan, 17, Fremont High School, Los Angeles
The kids quoted above were part of a panel of high school students who came together to discuss the results of a 1000-student survey about Los Angeles County teenagers and violence. The survey was conducted this past fall by LA Youth, a newspaper written by and about LA teenagers. Results were released in the paper’s most recent issue.
Among the survey findings:
**42 percent of the teenagers surveyed had seen or experienced shootings,
**59 percent saw or experienced someone being threatened.
**Two-thirds of respondents (64%) said they experience violence at least one a month, with eight percent reporting experiencing violence daily.
**75 percent of the kids surveyed said the violence around them has changed their actions.
(For instance, 37 percent of the teenagers surveyed said they won’t go out after dark.)
Unfortunately, 42 percent do not feel comfortable reporting the violence they see at school to the school authorities.
And, in a statisticthat particularly surprised some of the staff at LA Youth, the majority of teen respondents (69%) were not aware of any violence prevention program available in their communities.
(Good job getting the word out, people. Mayor’s office, I’m talking to you personally.)
These results, by the way, were not merely from kids living in the County’s most violent neighborhoods. They were kids from Pacific Palisades to the SF Valley, Beverly Hills and Pacoima, as well as East and South LA, and all points in between.
In the realm of youth-driven publications, LA Youth, the nonprofit organization that did the survey, is the real deal. Donna Myrow, who is a pal of mine, is the organization’s founder and director who, together with her staff, routinely does a stellar job in helping LA County’s middle and high school students find and express their individual and collective voices—most often on subjects that other youth publications hardly touch.
This violence survey is an excellent example.
Admittedly, LA Youth’s survey was not randomized, but was conducted in a call out to its readership in the paper’s September issue. The idea was to find out what kind of violence LA County kids were seeing in their schools and communities and what kids thought about the violence they saw.
As I said above, over 1000 teenagers responded, and all the rest of results are very much worth reading.
Here, for example, is what students thought might help them feel safer in their neighborhoods:
More adults involved in teens’ lives…………………….45%
More after-school activities……………………………45%
More places to hang out like parks and libraries ……41%
More police ……………………………………………..38%
Keep schools open later………………………………..22%
About what precautions would keep them safer on campus? The students’ top suggestion was: weapons searches.