After the wave of violence that occurred on May 31st, the last day of the regular school year for District 209 students (see here and here for coverage), a lot of residents of Maywood and beyond were wondering how exactly it could’ve happened. What fueled the students’ aggression? How did we go from this:
For some possible explanations, we went to experts, community leaders, Village officials, parents and students. Their answers are wide-ranging and thought-provoking. Over the next several days, we’ll publish the opinions and insights of these individuals, inviting you, the reader, to engage in the dialogue as well (tell us what you think in the comments section below). This series of posts will inaugurate a new section we’re calling, “Virtual Town Hall.” We hope to convene these at least once a month on issues that span the gamut — all of which are vitally important to the present and future of Maywood.
Maywood Police Chief Tim Curry is a 28-year veteran of the Maywood Police Department. Curry just recently announced his retirement from the force this month to become the new director of security for the Cook County Recorder of Deeds (an in-depth interview with Curry is forthcoming):
It’s hard to say at the spur of the moment, but it really goes back to how you can communicate with the parents. It’s the parents that either train or untrain the kids. When you get out in society, your children are a reflection of what you demand of them. Not all the children in this community [are troubled]. We have kids that are great and those that are not so great. But I can generally tell what kind of parents children have based on how they carry themselves.
[But on the other hand], parents can’t always know what their children are doing everyday, because they aren’t with their kids everyday. A lot of times, both parents have to work and in many cases, parents have to leave their kids at home alone. It bothers me when we have to enforce and do certain things to people when they’re in an impossible situation to begin with. I’m aware and sensitive to that. But regardless [of circumstances], we have to draw the parents into the equation.
What will happen to the students involved?
They’re kids, so they’ll be dealt with as juveniles. [It also depends on the case]. For instance, [the girl who came after a crowd of kids with knives] — we’ll have compassion for her, because we don’t know what led up to that moment. [There are reports that she may have been jumped by several other kids before the knife incident happened].
The Maywood Police Department also has an in-house social worker and we’re connected to ProCare. So, the social workers are here for the community. And a lot of it is free. For instance, the girl who was arrested for wielding the knives will be offered social services to talk things out and to de-escalate the conflict [that led her to react that way].
Any updates as to what may have led to the fight? Was it pre-planned?
For that kind of fight to have happened, it had to have been pre-planned on a pretty large scale. [That’s my hunch]. I’ve been hearing some things on Facebook, but I’m not completely certain of that yet. It’s remarkable that there weren’t any guns involved, which is an indication that it probably wasn’t gang-related. If it was, it would’ve gotten really ugly. We could’ve had a major tragedy if someone had a gun. I’m very appreciative to the other departments who helped us out. None of the kids were hurt by police. There were only minor injuries. It could’ve been a whole lot worse. So my kudos goes out to the departments who assisted us.
But I really do hope that the parents would see how important it is to tell the kids to walk the other way, for parents to be prepared to pick their children up and for them to have some sort of accountability for where those kids are. There’s got to be a way to do better.
Gwendolyn Young is Executive Director of Seed of Hope Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mentoring adolescent and teenage girls in the western suburbs. In August, she’ll have finished a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership. She talks about the role of social service organizations, community coordination and parental involvement in the lives of students.
I don’t think there’s enough involvement to address the issue at the community level. Community organizations have to find a way to come together and collaborate with schools on programming to address some of this at a deeper level. These kids don’t dream of growing up to be the bad kid or the kid that’s always in trouble. There’s something that happens. Research shows that girls are leading the juvenile justice system as far as crime is concerned. They’re being emotionally and physically abused at home, molested, etc. But we as adults are too quick to just write them off, instead of understand the issues that are making them behave the way they are. So, for instance, in our workshops we try to help kids manager their emotions — to teach them how not to allow others to control how they feel and act. We teach them that everything is a choice.
However, they’re seeing [violence, aggression, etc.] in the homes, so they’re not exposed to anything different. In addition, nobody at school wants to take the time to address the issue, which is understandable. The teacher’s role is to teach. But when they get in trouble, we suspend them, thus giving them more time to indulge in the bad behavior that got them suspended in the first place. Something has to change.
It really makes me upset, for instance, when I look at the statistics that report parental contact and its at 95 percent. I asked myself how that was when the dropout rates were so high. I discovered that they counted things like mailing out letters home as parental contact.
There’s also the community aspect. I’ve had children in schools in both La Grange and Maywood and the big difference between the two community engagement. When did we become so terrified of our kids? In La Grange, parents are required to do things like attend meetings and work concessions if their children are going to be involved in sports. Local businesses are much more involved in the schools. So, it goes back to the community coming together as a whole (social services, businesses, parents, etc.) and saying, ‘How can we address the situation?’ (Mrs. Young will talk in more depth about her organization’s services and its mission in an upcoming interview). VFP