Keeping School Campus Safe Is A Two-Way Street

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No one wants to see violent acts taking place in a school, especially teachers and administrators, who are also parents.

The stabbing of a Payson High School freshman was an unfortunate incident that school administrators and teachers had little control over. The incident of violent behavior occurred off campus and the victim involved did not earlier seek help from teachers or counselors.

Teachers and administrators cannot do anything if they don't know about the problem. It is important for parents to talk with school administrators when they see or hear about a bullying incident or other problem at school.

There are parents who are questioning student safety at the school and they have a right to do so. It must be understood that the violent behavior that took place last week -- as repulsive as it is -- should not tarnish the credibility of PHS.

What parents should understand is that statistics show it is actually safer to be in school than in a car, and the vast majority of students will never experience violence at school.

As a newspaper, we have reporters and photographers who are in the halls of Payson High School, almost on a daily basis.

We do not see PHS as being a violent place. Certainly, like any school, there are problems, which makes it even more important for parents to have a relationship with teachers and school administrators. No problem can be solved if the people in charge don't know about the problem.

Students at PHS are safe and secure in their academic environment. Most consider the campus a special place that will never be spoiled by crime and violence.

At PHS, gangs are practically nonexistent, students are, for the most part, cooperative, and character education is a part of the curriculum.

Also, teachers, counselors and administrators at the school are dedicated professionals who have the best interests of the students at heart.

If they know of potential for violent behavior, they aggressively work to prevent it from happening.

PHS teachers are on the lookout for the warning signs of someone on the verge of violence. Those indicators include bragging about acts of violence, bullying, cruelty to pets or other animals and playing with weapons of any kind. But they can't be everywhere, every place; they need help from parents and students.

If teachers or administrators witness any type of bizarre behavior, they need to immediately report it to school counselors Judy Michel and Don Heizer, school resource officer Les Barr or principal Roy Sandoval.

PHS school personnel have the skills, knowledge and resources to protect students from any type of violence.

One of the first challenges the then-new high school principal took on, when he was hired two years ago, was to put in place preventive measures to deter school violence, drug use and other youth problems.

He said recently his goal was to make sure no student feels lost in the school community and all gain a sense of being valued and respected for who they are.

Only last week, after school, the school principal was sitting on the wall of the administration building talking to student body president James Van Druff about ways to implement cultures of caring and school pride.

The bottom line is that all of the security officers, metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs and surveillance hardware in the world will not make a safe campus.

PHS teachers and administrators know that teaching students self and social responsibility for their lives is the answer to violence. Parents also must take the major role in teaching their children that violence does not solve a problem.

Parents must be the lead teachers in building character within their children. Parents must have a dialogue with their children about these issues. Parents also need to talk with school staff when there is a problem.

Payson staff knows that school violence isn't easy to understand; there is no one reason why students become violent.

Sometimes, people who turn violent are victims of teasing, who feel as if they need to make it stop. Some think fighting is the only way to deal with problems and others feel isolated and rejected by their peers. Some are following behaviors they've seen at home or in video games or television.

At Payson High School, teachers and administrators actively pursue ways to help teens deal with anger in productive, nonviolent ways.

And while they are doing that, parents can rest assured the PHS campus is a safe haven where their children can discover and develop their unique strengths, talents and interests.

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