Voices in Focus: The High Cost of School Security
We have three thought-provoking pieces from the ethnic and community press today, as we go into the weekend: a look into school security in the Bronx, and how it impacts students and their learning; an analysis of U.S. circumcision rates; and a portrait of an Aztec dance group that worships and performs in city parks.
* The Riverdale Press looked into a question that student groups and the New York Civil Liberties Union have also asked: “School security — how much is too much?” The piece describes the long lines at metal detectors that students must stand in each morning to get to class, and students scrambling to stash their cell phones at bodegas for $1 a day safekeeping. As we have noted, New York City Police Department statistics show hundreds of arrests across the city’s schools — more than an average of five a day last fall — and that almost all of the students arrested are black or Latino.
School crime rates have dropped nationwide over the past decade. Yet security cameras, student ID cards and armed officers are becoming ingrained in campus life. Researchers say the physical steps to curb misconduct help assuage general distress about the state of education.
Local students encounter everything from randomly placed mobile metal detectors to year-long suspensions at “alternative learning sites.” Educators say metal detectors and the authoritarian nature of the impact program — which assigns extra police to schools — helped clean up DeWitt Clinton High School and the Kennedy Campus.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has repeatedly touted a 44 percent drop in major crimes and a 32 percent dip in violent crimes at schools between 2001 and 2009 as evidence of the enhanced security’s success. Yet, critics say the policing sends minors into the criminal justice system for incidents like trespassing and disorderly conduct, and that the unforgiving disciplinary code inflates suspension rates, which keeps kids away from classrooms.
Research showing that school security doesn’t impact all students equally adds to the controversy. Large complexes with more minority and low-income students like Clinton and JFK tend to have a stronger police presence and are more likely to have permanent metal detectors. Even within the same schools, black students and special education students face higher suspension rates than their peers.
* Even as European countries debate the medical and religious freedom issues around circumcision, more than half of all American boys are still circumcised, The Jewish Daily Forward reports. But circumcision rates vary wildly across the United States, The Forward’s Paul Berger found.
A Forward analysis of government data shows that 87% of the baby boys born in West Virginia were circumcised in 2009. Two thousand miles west, in Nevada, the procedure was performed on only 12% of baby boys.
It’s a strange disparity in a country where most parents still circumcise their sons. It also stands in stark contrast to Europe, where circumcision is increasingly described as a barbaric act that should be banned.
In the United States, far from debating whether circumcision should be allowed, a spate of new studies and recommendations is actually pointing to the health benefits — and even cost-effectiveness — of circumcision, and warning against falling American circumcision rates.
Health authorities were unable to explain the disparity, though The Forward found that states where Medicaid does not cover circumcisions had lower rates.
Most Jews and Muslims are circumcised. But for other boys, race, household income, insurance coverage and ZIP code are good predictors of whether the procedure will be performed.
Just as influential may be the state in which a baby is born.
While 75% of boys born in the Midwest in 2009 had a circumcision, only 25% of boys born in the West that same year were circumcised, according to The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is part of the Department of Health.
* Lastly, New Yorkers going for an evening stroll in the park might stumble across an ancient ceremony to prehistoric Mexican gods, El Diario La Prensa reports.
Urban settings in the Big Apple are transformed into makeshift worship centers Mexican gods. With night vigils, a Mexican dance groups worship prehispanic deities.
Tletlpapalotzin, or “fire butterfly,” is the name of the dance group, which preserves the ancestral ceremonies and promotes them in the city.
The nonprofit group, which performs in parks across the city, also offers traditional Mexican dance classes, as well as classes in the philosophy and religion, and in the ancient Aztec language Nahuatl.