|For Immediate Release|
|Thursday, February 2, 1995|
Massachusetts Board of Education Responds to National Call for a State Plan on Violence Prevention in Schools
Boston - The Massachusetts State Board of Education has agreed to lead a collaborative initiative with several state and local agencies and the Offices of the Governor and Lt. Governor to develop a state plan for preventing and dealing with violence against schoolchildren.
At its January 24, 1995 monthly meeting held in Boston, Board Chair Martin S. Kaplan of Newton responded to a recommendation of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) Study Group on Violence and Its Impact on Schools and Learning by calling on the state Department of Education to work in conjunction with other state agencies and other representatives of schools, law enforcement and child advocacy on several fronts to oppose violence.
The Massachusetts Board of Education, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office and the Office of the Lt. Governor will jointly hold a two-day conference on violence prevention at the Seacrest Hotel in Falmouth on April 5 and 6, 1995. Massachusetts Lt. Governor Paul Cellucci will keynote the conference, expected to draw 600 parents, school administrators, teachers, principals and law enforcement representatives. The two days will focus on promoting collaborative approaches to preventive programs in schools, emphasizing curriculum ideas for all grade levels, and evaluating closely the overall school climate and its effects on student behavior.
State Board Member Stacy Scott of Lowell, who is the national chair of the NASBE Study Group, told the Board members "There needs to be a systemic approach which is linked to and supported by the community."
A Nasbe Study Group report, Schools Without Fear, recommends that each state Board of Education develop a state plan for preventing and dealing with violence that protects the rights of students and staff to feel safe and to receive a public education, and that focuses on long-term strategies for violence prevention. Scott said the Study Group agreed upon the need to consider "the issues of how and when students would be expelled from school and the continuum of responses and services that are provided to those individuals so that they do not become lost in the process."
Among the groups which will increase their collaboration on the Massachusetts Board of Education's State Plan for Violence Prevention are the Massachusetts Department of Education, members of the Board of Education, the Governor's Execeutive Office of Education, the Mass Advocacy Council, the Massachusetts Departments of Social Services and Youth Services, the Boston Police Department, the District Attorney's Office of Middlesex County and the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. Representatives of these organizations attended the State Board of Education meeting to inform the Board of collaborations and programs on violence prevention already established.
Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Robert V. Antonucci highlighted recent initiatives of the State Department of Education in providing grants, technical assistance and other support to school districts for violence prevention initiatives statewide, many of which follow the recommendations in Schools Without Fear.
The Department has awarded over $29,000,000 to districts in fiscal year 1995 for violence prevention and other related issues through the state Health Protection and federal Drug-Free Schools Grants. An additional $450,000 is allocated to the Department's Safe Schools for Gay and Lesbian Student Program which provides resources to schools to help make them safe for all students by decreasing violence and harassment that results from homophobia. In collaboration with the Office for Violence Prevention of the State Department of Public Health, the Department of Education provides $50,000 to support the "Words Not Weapons" campaign, a student-run initiative at the high school level that seeks to eliminate weapons in schools.
In September 1994, a blue-ribbon state panel proposed an action plan focusing on providing educational services to students who have been excluded from Massachusetts public schools for disciplinary reasons or who have dropped out. The panel rejected proposals to create a new infrastructure of regional boarding schools for these students, and instead recommended collaboration among local districts and changes in state law which would send funds received by school districts from the state along with any students who are sent to alternative settings outside of their regular classrooms.
The panel's authors, who included the State Board of Education Chair, the State Commissioner of Education, and the State Attorney General, wrote, "Violent, dangerous and seriously disruptive behavior pose a threat to the educational process and will not be tolerated. Some students, because of their aggressive and violent behavior, simply must be removed from the regular classroom setting. However, the safety and welfare of the larger community is jeopardized if students who have been excluded from school are not provided with the opportunity to receive appropriate alternative education....School systems must provide alternative education, although a violent few will receive that education while incarcerated."
Approximately 9700 of Massachusetts' 880,000 public school students dropped out of school in the 1992-1993 school year, and an additional 1000 were excluded from school for ten days or more for disciplinary reasons in the 1993-1994 school year. Most of the dropouts and one-third of the students excluded for disciplinary reasons received no alternative education, the state panel reported.