Addressing racial disparities is critical to ending violence in schools, task force says

The task force started after an uptick in violent incidents at Ramsey County schools.
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Addressing racial and cultural disparities could help reduce violent outbursts in Ramsey County schools, the Community Task Force for Safe Schools found.

At the request of Ramsey County Attorney John Choi following an uptick in school violence, the task force worked for the past seven months to better understand why there was so much conflict between students and staff in schools, and what could be done about it.

It released its full report on Thursday, finding there's a disproportionate number of students of color who are acting out against school staff. In 2015, there were 34 fourth-degree assault cases in Ramsey County schools (more than double the number from 2014), the report shows. Seventy-three percent of those incidents involved a black student.

Here are some of the reasons why students were acting out:

Before coming up with recommendations to help address issues of violence, the task force looked at underlying factors for why students may have acted out in these situations. Among them:

  • Adults who can't relate to or understand experiences of students of a different racial or cultural background.
  • Caregivers who need more support to teach de-escalation and conflict resolution to help their kids learn how to process their emotions.
  • Embracing community and faith-based leaders as part of the family system.
  • The increasing need for youth mental health services.

“These challenges are complex and multi-faceted; solving them will require each of us – as community leaders, parents, and system professionals – to step outside of our silos and be more intentional about how we invest in and engage children and families, particularly across the possible barriers of race, class, culture, and exposure to trauma," Choi said in a statement.

The task force came up with five recommendations to help address these issues (see below), noting that a "critical step" across these five ideas is "developing cross-cultural and racial awareness," noting that addressing issues of race "must stay on course" and not stop because "the discussion makes some adults uncomfortable."

Here are the recommendations:

  • Build healthy relationships with youth.
  • Have a proactive, positive approach to prevent and respond to conflict and challenging behavior.
  • Share and improve data across systems.
  • Increase parent and guardian support, education and relationships.
  • Improve training, hiring, development and learning of adults working and living with kids and teens.

The 40-page report goes into detail about how parents, businesses, community leaders, schools and police can implement these recommendations (you can read the whole thing here). The report will be sent to 257 community leaders in the county in hopes they'll use it to develop a plan to implement the recommendations and help put an end to youth violence.

For more information on the Community Task Force for Safe Schools, which included 39 members, click here.

Violence in MN schools

A Bureau of Justice Statistics report released last year shows 6.5 percent of teachers at public schools in Minnesota said they had actually been physically attacked by a student during the 2011-12 school year (the most recent year of data available).

This was also above the national average of 5.8 percent.

And 11.4 percent of teachers in Minnesota public schools said they had been threatened by a student during that same school year.

That’s above the national average of 10 percent, and was the highest percentage ever for the survey, which has been done every four years since the 1999-2000 school year.

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