Sunday, September 20, 2009

Can smaller schools reduce violence and incidents of bullying and other dangers?

News Item: Student fatally stabbed

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (WSVN) -- Juan Carlos Rivera, 17, a 10th grader at Coral Gables High School, died as a result of a confrontation with another student on campus.

School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho addressed concerns of violence on school campuses. "Unfortunately, I think it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prevent a random act of violence," he said.

So far, class has not been in session for more than a month and it has proved a bad start to the school year. Guns have been found on campuses just last week and yesterday. On Monday, a 14-year-old boy at Madison Middle School in Miami-Dade showed off a gun he had in his backpack, which a teacher confiscated without incident.

Last Friday, Miami-Dade Schools Police arrested three students, two from Westview Middle School and one from North Miami Beach Sr. High, for bringing guns to schools.

The Miami-Dade school system is also no stranger to fatal stabbings at their schools. On Feb. 3, 2004, at Southwood Middle School, Michael Hernandez, 14, stabbed his friend Jamie Gough, also 14, to death in one of the school's bathrooms.

The most recent fatality on a school campus occurred in Broward County. On Nov. 12, 2008, then 15-year-old Teah Wimberly admitted to shooting and killing her friend Amanda Collette, also 15, at Dillard High School in Miramar.

"I understand the frustration," Carvalho said about the recent violence at local schools. "The fact that it happened here today, the fact that it happened once in Broward last year, the fact it happens across the country, it's a lesson for all of us."

Despite these recent scenes of violence at local schools, Carvalho said, there is no safer place for children to be when away from the care of their parents. "It should be noted that schools, in my opinion, is the safest place for kids to be," he said. (News report by

Extremely difficult to prevent? Oh? The stabbing in Coral Gables High School would have been less likely to take place in a smaller school. We taxpapers sit by while our education tax revenues are spent in “big box” schools where bullies are freer to roam.

School reformer Dennis Littky writes, "The best way to create a positive school culture is to start by creating a small school [under 400 students]. Research has shown that small schools are safer and easier to secure. A large public school system might spend more than $50 million annually on school security" (p. 67). Why not start by making the schools smaller? For more information about the importance of “number of kids in the school” (instead of “number of students in a classroom,” contact Big Picture Learning, Dennis Littky, 325 Public Street, Providence, RI 02905, Phone: 401.752.3442

Each of us comes to school reform through a different avenue. Search “Dennis Littky” on and you'll find the April 2005 interview. Perhaps you will come to see, as I have, that school reform starts with us, not with "them."

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