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LA Teenagers Talk Candidly About Violence

February 3rd, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

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 … 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.

Posted in campus violence, Education | 5 Comments »

5 Responses

  1. don quixote Says:

    Sadly, maybe these students and the violence that surrounds them are, as H Rapp Brown once said, “As American as Cherry Pie” (Brown now doing life for murder himself).
    The country was founded and baptized in violence, it grew and thrived with a manifest destiny that rubbed out millions of native Americans, it prospered on the backs of forced enslavement of millions of Africans, it became a world industrial force and military power through wars and invasions.
    Violence is exalted and glamorized in every possible form, it’s the featured star in most TV, Movie, Music productions.
    It’s the last word in most world political conflict and then rationalized and made pure by demon-izing “them” and hero-izing “us”, “those “gooks” just don’t think like us, they have no respect for human life”.

    Poor kids are just caught up in a horrible mimicry of the larger society that surrounds them.

  2. What Brillance Says:

    The gangs and violence in Los Angeles schools must be due manifest destiny and the violence toward native American Indians by those gavachos from England? The poor inditos from mexico still remember the fate of their indian compadres north of their border.

  3. Woody Says:

    Among the survey findings: **42 percent of the teenagers surveyed had seen or experienced shootings

    It’s time for their parents to get out of Dodge and move the kids to school systems that are safe. Where are the parents if these studies are half-way correct?

  4. WBC Says:

    Very disconcerting indeed. However, a propos your last paragraph that these kids were also from Beverly Hills, Palisades “and Pacoima” (a non sequiteur, as a largely poor, Latino area), if you look at the ethnic breakdown of the respondents, only 8% were white.

    So while there may have been a smattering of respondents from Beverly Hills, with its excellent police force, it was hardly representative; and the Palisades are in LAPD territory — the Chief recently admitted to a jittery westside crowd that it can take upto 40 mins. to get a squad car out to the Palisades because they’re primarily deployed in more violent areas, but the reason they’re not deployed there in greater numbers is precisely because the area is less violent. I can say from experience and first-hand accounts of parents with kids in Beverly Hills and Paul Revere/ Pali High that the gang problem has crept in, and kids are subjected to bullying like anywhere else, but the inner city schools reflect the socio-economics of their community.

    But certainly no area can be complacent or think it’s immune; even Manhattan and Hermosa Beaches have been hit by a wave of assaults on people walking about in recent weeks.

  5. Celeste Fremon Says:

    Ooops. Pacoima was a bit of a non sequiteur. Meant to go back and put down another city, for the reasons you mention, but forgot.

    Okay, how about Palos Verdes.

    Plus a few of the kids responding were even from private schools—including Marlborough, Loyola, Harvard-Westlake and New Roads. The point was, they were not just from East and South LA and the poor parts of the Valley.

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