The recent sad tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut brought back memories of my teaching career in East New York, Brooklyn known as the “Homicide Capital of New York City.”
Here are some excerpts from my school’s Report of Principal’s Suspensions (Five Days) for the attendance period ending January 31, 1972. Of the thirteen students listed on this report seven of their parents did not come for the Principal’s Hearing:
- Seventh grade male student – Hit principal, dean & patrolman (Yes, we had a uniformed New York City police officer in our school every day the school was open.)
- Eighth grade male student – Throwing trees at cars in front of school (I have the newspaper article from four years later when this same student was found guilty in the slaying of 2 teens.)
- Eighth grade female student – Hit secretary.
- Seventh grade female student – Destructive behavior (A few months later this student was killed.)
The students treated these suspensions as a vacation from school and their behavior when they came back to school did not change.
In another case I remember one student suspended for stealing a teacher’s purse. He was suspended, never counseled and a few years later he was arrested during the course of a robbery at a store.
I kept a scrapbook of newspaper articles as well as documents & photographs of our troubled school. Some of the newspaper headlines:
- “Indict 5 Teenagers in Killing of 3 Elderly Men” (2 of the 5 had attended my school)
- “Nab Suspects in 27 Holdups” (2 of the 4 arrested were former students)
- “Youth Slain in IRT holdup” (former student killed after he fired a shot at a patrolman)
- “Three Hurt In Battle at Playground” (gang fight behind our school that listed one of our students)
- “School Administrator Attacked by Gang” (our principal in the middle of school day was beaten in the school yard by a gang of teen-aged youths when he went to the rescue a boy the gang had attacked).
What always bothered me was that no one ever found out the reasons why these children acted out. They were never interviewed by our guidance staff, social worker or school psychologist who could have possibly helped get them the help that they needed. Unfortunately, we have a lot of young people who need help and they do not receive it. There are no easy answers to this but we should at least make an effort to prevent future events like what happened in Connecticut and the daily incidences that happen in many of our schools.