A Matter of Safety

“You know that student you asked me about this morning?” Ms. J said, as she stuck her head through my door after the last bell Thursday. “Her family has experienced a terrible tragedy. Her father was killed.”

“Oh, that’s horrible!” I said. “Killed. As in murdered?”

“Yes,” Ms. J said.

I couldn’t imagine who would do such a thing, but Ms. J had no more information. The only thing I knew for certain was that 12-year-old N-Girl had been plunged into grief and that somehow she would have to come to terms with her father’s sudden and unexpected death.

Late this afternoon, I learned from the school counselor that an arrest had been made: N-Girl’s older (by one year) brother had been charged with his father’s murder.

I teach in a school in a low-income area. Alcoholism, drug abuse and gang activity are rampant. Many of my students know the painful facts about domestic violence—not by reading statistics, but by watching their drunken father beat their mother and then turn on his children. Murder is not uncommon. Last year one of my students was both relieved and horrified when the body of her older sister, who had been missing for two years, was finally discovered. The sister was a homicide victim.

I think I now understand why so many of my students have signed up for summer school, even though they are not failing and are in no danger of being retained. They may not do well in school, they may even profess to dislike school, but they know they can count on their teachers to provide a consistent daily routine in contrast to the chaos of their unpredictable home lives. For these kids, school is the safest place in the community—and they want as much of it as they can get.

The academic year ends Tuesday, and I’m sure N-Girl won’t be with us for the last-day-of school festivities. But I won’t be surprised if she shows up for summer school the day after Memorial Day.

It’s a matter of safety.

Posted on May 21, 2010, in death, middle school, safety, summer school. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Oh my god. That’s….that’s unspeakable. I’m so sorry for your student’s loss.

  2. Heartbreaking tragedy….
    I’m sure they also want to come back for school because of caring teachers like yourself!

  3. The Race To The Top doesn’t think or even care about kids like N girl. The people that make up these programs have no idea of the world some of our kids come from.

    This story is horrible–my sympathies to all of you.

  4. Wow. That’s one of the most disturbing stories I’ve seen in some time. I hope you can show these kids there’s more to life than scenes like this. It seems like an uphill battle–but there’s something we do more than just making kids pass tests, and maybe you’re called upon to do precisely that. They don’t show you how to do that in teacher school.

  5. Isaiah 49:15

    How can I forget you? . . . I have carved you in the palm of my hand.

  6. That is so sad…but I know it happens too much!
    I am thankful for good teachers who really care!
    Like you said…at least they find order and escape from the chaos , when they are at school.

    Linda @ Truthful Tidbits

  7. So sad but part of our lives in parts of our world…
    if school is the safest place for them, they should stay in school…
    unfortunately money is the root to all evils and ills…with or without..

    thank you for sharing with us..

    hugs
    shakira

  8. I was just thinking to myself the other day that you hadn’t written about any school experiences lately. I surely didn’t want to read that. How very sad for N-girl. I will pray for her and her family.

    It is so true that children do look to school for a safe haven. God bless all those teachers who work to make it so.

  9. edshunnybunny

    I know exactly what you are saying…school is the only thing stable in the lives of so many children, and it’s a shame. Thank God for caring teachers.

  10. Everyone is in my thoughts and prayers.

    Continue to be the amazing and supportive educator to your students.

    We have the same thing at my school. We provide a stable and safe environment for kids and the kids know it.

  11. I’m glad they do that, Teach. You have done a great service to humanity in making happenings like made known. I would like to add it isn’t just NYC or even the big cities alone in this problem.

    We have much the same thing here in the Houston area. The shooters sometimes don’t even know the person they killed. Other times it is over drug, turf, someone leaving the gang, etc.
    We have an infamous sixteen year old girl who did the killing for her gang member boy friend. Her sentence is under consideration, for more than a year now.

    The kids in summer school do have a safer place to be. Also Houston and surrounding area schools have free breakfast for ALL students, summer ones too. That ends the hassle of qualifications and slighted students, etc.

    Race or citizenship aren’t much of a factor, nor is legal or illegal status on the immagrants part. Not a great proportion are immagrants. We are an integrated town and our neighbor is just as likely to be illegal as legal.
    ..

  12. Please delete my previous comment. I added something to your cudo and the keyboard nasty elf got me. It is entirely wrong.

    Here is what I meant to say:

    I’m glad you posted this, Teach. You have done a great service to humanity in making happenings like made known. I would like to add it isn’t just NYC or even the big cities alone in this problem.

    We have much the same thing here in the Houston area. The shooters sometimes don’t even know the person they killed. Other times it is over drug, turf, someone leaving the gang, etc.
    We have an infamous sixteen year old girl who did the killing for her gang member boy friend. Her sentence is under consideration, for more than a year now.

    The kids in summer school do have a safer place to be. Also Houston and surrounding area schools have free breakfast for ALL students, summer ones too. That ends the hassle of qualifications and slighted students, etc.

    Race or citizenship aren’t much of a factor, nor is legal or illegal status on the immagrants part. Not a great proportion are immagrants. We are an integrated town and our neighbor is just as likely to be illegal as legal.
    ..

  13. hardworkinjudy

    This is so sad. I lived in NY for 16 years and gave birth to all my children there. I could not wait to get back home to Michigan. When people here tell me they live in the ghetto I laugh.

    There is crime anywhere, but in the south Bronx, where we lived very few cared. It is good the students have some stability in their lives. It makes me think of “To Sir with Love”.

    God bless! Sorry, I ramble. 🙂

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