"PREVENTING YOUTH VIOLENCE AND CRIME: THE ROLE OF FAMILIES, SCHOOL AND GOVERNMENT"
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD,
YOUTH AND FAMILIES
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
HEARING HELD IN PORTAGE, MICHIGAN, JUNE 21, 1999
Serial No. 106-54
Printed for the use of the Committee on Education
and the Workforce
TABLE OF CONTENTS *
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN MICHAEL CASTLE, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILIES, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC *
OPENING STATEMENT OF RANKING MEMBER DALE KILDEE, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILIES, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC *
OPENING STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE FRED UPTON, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILIES, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC *
STATEMENT OF DR. KAY ROYSTER, SUPERINTENDENT, KALAMAZOO PUBLIC SCHOOLS, KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN *
STATEMENT OF DR. DARNELL JACKSON, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF DRUG CONTROL POLICY, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY HEALTH, LANSING, MICHIGAN *
STATEMENT OF MR. BOB EZELLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB OF GREATER KALAMAZOO. KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN *
STATEMENT OF DR. JAY NEWMAN, SUPERINTENDENT, ST. JOSEPH COUNTY INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL DISTRICT, CENTREVILLE, MICHIGAN *
STATEMENT OF DR. SUSAN CAULFIELD, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY, KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN *
STATEMENT OF MS. CAROLINE BURGESS, YOUTH ADVISORY BOARD, KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN *
STATEMENT OF PASTOR PHILLIP McELHENNY, FIRST ASSEMBLY CHRISTIAN SCHOOL, PORTAGE, MICHIGAN *
STATEMENT OF MS. PAT FITTON, SOUTH HAVEN, MICHIGAN *
APPENDIX A - WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. KAY ROYSTER, SUPERINTENDENT, KALAMAZOO PUBLIC SCHOOLS, KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN *
"PREVENTING YOUTH VIOLENCE AND CRIME: THE ROLE OF FAMILIES, SCHOOL, AND GOVERNMENT"
ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT
MONDAY, JUNE 21, 1999
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILIES,
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 3:00 p.m., at the Portage West Middle School, 7145 Moorsbridge, Portage, Michigan, Hon. Michael N. Castle [Chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Castle, Upton, and Kildee.
Staff Present: Krisann Pearce, Professional Staff Member; Alex Nock, Legislative Associate/Education;.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN MICHAEL CASTLE, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILIES, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC
Chairman Castle. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Mike Castle, and I'm the at-large Congressman for Delaware. At-large means you're so small you don't have a second one. Delaware, we're a small state, and I do chair the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth, and Family, Education and the Workforce in Washington, D.C.
Obviously I would like to thank particularly those of you who are testifying because I know it takes some time and effort to prepare for this very important issue of school violence.
I got up early this morning, too early to get a local Wilmington paper, so I got a Philadelphia Inquirer at the airport and turned to the front page and it says, "This summer school turns up the heat on security issues." That caught my attention knowing that we were having this hearing this afternoon.
And I read it and there was this comment. "Kids have free time," talking about the summer and safer schools in the fall, and the gentlemen said,"Kids have free time to build their weaponry" said Thomas Sloven, superintendent.
I hate to think kids are out there building their weaponry as we go through the summer, and it went on to say, "Administrators welcome back students with a host of new safety measures, including identification cards, more secure advance emergency action plans, and new systems for handling visitors," et cetera.
Seems to be a little worse in the Philadelphia area than they are here in the Portage-Kalamazoo area, but I tell you, that's alarming reading when you really look at it. Thankfully, extreme violence such as that experienced by the community of Littleton, Colorado is still relatively rare.
According to the Department of Justice, students have less than one in a million chance of becoming the victim of a school-related death. That particular fact, however, is of little comfort to the many students and teachers who fear for their own safety on campuses across the country.
Even with the best teachers and unlimited financial resources, we cannot expect our students to learn when they are distracted by threats of violence.
Today we will explore what violence is occurring in our schools and what can be done to protect our children. This hearing will build upon the Subcommittee's two previous hearings we had on the subject and help us better understand how school violence affects students, school, parents, and other school personnel.
As part of this effort, we will consider changes to the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities act and attempt to make our schools safer for teachers and students alike.
I see that we have a very distinguished panel, and I look forward to learning how we can work together to prevent future acts of violence in our school.
Finally, I would like to thank Congressman Upton for his leadership on this important issue. And at this time before we turn to Fred who will actually conduct most of the hearing, we're going to turn to Congressman Kildee, distinguished member also from Michigan who is a ranking member of this Subcommittee for any opening statement which he wishes to make.
OPENING STATEMENT OF RANKING MEMBER DALE KILDEE, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILIES, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. Kildee. Thank you very much. I'm really pleased to be here today with Governor Mike Castle from Delaware and with my colleague from Michigan, Fred Upton. Fred Upton is certainly a very distinguished member of our Committee. He's one who we need to really enact good education legislation.
In fact, we really need more Fred Uptons in the Congress. He's not only a great congressman, he's a very, very good friend of mine. I'm very happy to be here to listen to you today as we try to address, from the Washington, the problem of violence in our schools and in our society.
When incidents of violence happens, whether it be at school or in the community, it has an impact upon the entire community. Therefore the prevention of violence has to go beyond simply the school. There are remedial problems and psychological problems, moral and ethical problems that we have to examine, and you are the people who can help us.
The longer I've been in congress, 23 years now, the more I realize that the wisdom is not in Washington, D.C. Hopefully we have some there, but the real wisdom is out here. People who see what's going on in your communities every day, we come to you for your input, and we very much appreciate Fred arranging this hearing here today.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Congressman Kildee, and we all appreciate Fred arranging this hearing. Fred and I cochair a group in Washington called the Tuesday group. We used to be known as the Tuesday lunch bunch. That's because we met for lunch, but that didn't seem very dignified so we called ourselves the Tuesday group, and we met on Wednesdays.
Mr. Upton. Thursday.
Chairman Castle. And we discuss issues, and it's always been a pleasure to work with Fred. He was in Congress before me, so he is a mentor of mine, indeed a person who I think sees all sides of the issues as well as anybody in Washington does and is very thoughtful about that.
I think we all appreciate that, and that's why Dale speaks highly of him, and I have nothing but good things to say, so we are pleased to have him here. I will call upon Congressman Upton.
OPENING STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE FRED UPTON, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILIES, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. Upton. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You know, we had an earlier hearing on the other side of the state, and you put both Dale and myself at great risk when you indicated you'd visited every school in the entire state. Dale and I try to visit every school certainly in our district over the year, and for me I visit a school a week and we get extra credit when we visit a school when they're not in session, but clearly we all have an interest in education.
We're delighted to be here. I'm particularly delighted to have you, the Chairman of the Subcommitee, and Dale Kildee, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee here.
I speak not only as a parent of two kids in school, but I have a brother who's a teacher and obviously see over the Children, Youth, and Family Subcommittee.
I would say to the audience and the three Members of Congress here today, we are on the Committee that serves primarily for school safety and juvenile violence prevention.
Whenever possible, congress should in fact review and improve federal violence prevention programs and school safety initiatives. We need to listen to those who have found ways to protect, and that's why we're here today, to listen.
The House last week, in fact, considered several measures aimed at combating juvenile crime. During the debate, some members argued tighter controls were needed for firearms. Others focused their attention on culture of violence and the images found in video games and movies.
What is fairly clear to me is that there is no single solution to the problem of school violence and youth crime. We've got to find a comprehensive solution to the problem instead.
Education, prevention, parental involvement, youth activities, and accountability are just a few of the important elements of this very challenging issue.
Our witnesses before us today each will offer their unique perspectives and expertise, and in the long run our work today could have far-reaching effects on the quality of life for our nation and the children for years and years to come.
I'm excited to be involved in this effort, and we're ready to listen. Let me briefly introduce my constituents maybe as we start. First I'll start with Dr. Kay Royster who has been superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools since July of 1996. She has clearly offered vision and direction to KPS which is the sixteenth largest school district in the state. Thanks to Kay's leadership, KPS was recently awarded a $2.3 million federal grant to implement after-school programming for students.
And the way that we would like to operate is that if each of you could limit your remarks to about five minutes, and actually we have a fancy kitchen timer. If it works like it did at the one this morning, it actually gives you a minute's notice, so it will ring at four minutes.
Kay, if we could start with you that would be good.
STATEMENT OF DR. KAY ROYSTER, SUPERINTENDENT, KALAMAZOO PUBLIC SCHOOLS, KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN
Dr. Royster. I appreciate the opportunity to address the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth, and Families on this very important topic of school violence, and a special thank you to you, Congressman Upton, for your invitation to do so and for your support of the children of Michigan, all children in America, and specifically of the Kalamazoo Public Schools.
Violence in an issue facing the schools of our nation in a more dramatic way, I think, than any of us ever remember. Some research suggests that children are engaged in more violent behavior than ever, and these causes are attributed to many factors, including the media and children's desensitization to the images on T.V.
Many children are left, you know, unattended by adults. We know that most of the crime that is committed is committed between the hours of three and six in the evening when children are unattended by adults.
Children who engage in school violence or at risk of doing so are those who have unresolved issues, whether they're academic, social, or emotional.
More often than not, these issues are rooted in the conditions of the family, the community, of the home, and are brought to our schools when the children attend.
The children often feel they have no one who can provide guidance, support, or direction. These children are not academically successful in school, and I'll underscore that children who are engaged in violence are not academically successful in school or feel detached from the positive school culture, alienated, no connection to schooling.
These are children who are not leaving with success. In the absence of support, students feel as though they are unusual, different, strange. Such feelings result in low self-esteem, and all of us know that when people don't care about themselves, they certainly don't care about others and it makes it very, very easy to engage in acts of violence.
While we at the Kalamazoo Public Schools recognize that schools are not necessarily the source of school violence - we indeed are not the source of school violence - we clearly understand that we have a major role in helping our children learn appropriate behaviors and decision making strategies to avoid engaging in violent behavior.
We do know, however, that violent behavior among students begins with academic and social success. It is the responsibility of school districts to learn more about and fully understand the interrelationship of school discipline, school violence, and student achievement.
We have long known the strong relationship among these factors. Students who are highly achieving and who are connected to the school culture and who feel connected to adults within the school environment are less likely to engage in disruptive or violent behavior.
Recognizing the pivotal role of achievement in the overall success of students, the Kalamazoo Public Schools embarked upon a strategic planning process which resulted in three objectives, the major one of which focuses upon high academic standards and achievement for all children.
We recognize the importance of having high academic standards and the attendance of court systems to ensure the achievement for all children, particularly those related to how students spend time after school. It is important to understand that children's time needs to be captured in positive ways.
In addition, our plan calls for the strengthening of the connections between schools, homes, and agencies in our communities. A number of initiatives have been implemented which we are happy to highlight for you this afternoon.
We plan not as a result of Columbine but because we recognize the importance of elimination of school violence and disruptive behavior, a school safety committee comprised of school personnel, local law enforcement, representative of community agencies and parents whose purpose was to review the safety procedures of our district.
One of the results includes the implementation of a tip line, an opportunity for all members of our community to engage with us on safety issues to let us know what they're seeing, what they're thinking and they're feeling in an anonymous way, and to provide information about potentially dangerous situations.
The best part about the safety committee is that they agree with us that the most important issue in cracking the violence that students may be engaged in is to have students be academically successful.
In addition, the county prosecution attorney's office and the Kalamazoo Public Schools are in partnership made possible by a federal block grant, and we appreciate having block grants that do that that prescribe what needs to happen in all cases.
This grant establishes a truancy program which is built upon the notion that truant children need to be brought back to school, and it is at the school site that a plan needs to be organized and implemented again for academic and social success.
This grant could have been used for the purpose of law enforcement equipment and supplies; however, our enlightened and caring law enforcement officials at the local level understand and are first to tell us how important it is that children be academically successful again in breaking the chain of violent behavior among students.
We want to acknowledge the prosecuting attorney and local law enforcement officials for having this foresight and cooperating in the effort.
The Kalamazoo Public School District is a recent recipient, as mentioned a moment ago, o, over a three-year period, $9 million in federal funds through the grant for the 21st century learning centers allowing us the opportunity to provide before and after-school programs for up to 4,000 elementary and middle school students.
Our interest in applying for this grant stems from the understanding once again of the strong relationship between academics, achieving academically, and not engaging in violent behavior or disruptive behavior or other negative behavior.
The school for the 21st century grant supports a strategic plan ensuring all children achieve at high levels. We will implement after-school learning centers in eight schools, five elementary and three middle schools. These efforts represent a collective agreement between the Kalamazoo Public Schools and its many community partners to include the Boys & Girls Club, Community Mental Health, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Western Michigan University, and the YMCA.
While some partners are currently providing services to our youngsters, the schools for the 21st century learning centers affords us an opportunity to structure and offer a systematic program for our youngsters.
On a final note, the Kalamazoo Public Schools wish to appeal to parents, guardians, and all adults to pay close attention to the children for signs of unusual behavior. Changes in behavior can be the first sign that children are experiencing difficulty that may need adult intervention, and we encourage children who may be experiencing problems to seek the advice of adults before acting.
Again, I want to underscore the strong connection that does exist between achievement and violence. Law enforcement officials tell us that, educators tell you that, parents tell us. If children are on track and achieving and all of their time is captured in a positive way, they're less likely to be engaged in destructive and violent behavior.
Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you.
[The statement of Dr. Royster follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. KAY ROYSTER, SUPERINTENDENT, KALAMAZOO PUBLIC SCHOOLS, KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN SEE APPENDIX A
Mr. Upton. Thank you. Our next witness is Dr. Darnell Jackson who is director of the Michigan Office of Drug Control Policy, better known as the Michigan Drug Czar.
Darnell is Governor Engler's point man on administration of the Safe and Drug-Free School Program, and we appreciate him taking out time from his busy day to drive down from Lansing, and we have got a State Representative, Jerry VanRoose, here as well from Kalamazoo County. Darnell.
STATEMENT OF DR. DARNELL JACKSON, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF DRUG CONTROL POLICY, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY HEALTH, LANSING, MICHIGAN
Mr. Jackson. Chairman Castle, Congressmans Kildee and Upton, I am pleased to be here. On behalf of Governor Engler, I would like to thank you for coming to West Michigan to discuss this topic of school safety today.
Your willingness to listen to constituents at the community level and reexamine the federal government's role in making every school a safe haven is a tribute to this committee as well as this congress.
The topic of school safety falls within my area of responsibility due to a memorandum of understanding assigned between the Michigan Office of Drug Control Policy and the Michigan Department of Education in 1992. We administer the Safe and Drug Free School Program here in the state of Michigan.
I would like to apprise the company of the efforts my office and the Engler administration have made and also offer a few suggestions for changes at the federal level which I think help this whole process.
Before I discuss the role of government, I think we need a clearer recognition that government alone cannot possibly be a surrogate parent for every troubled youth. Nothing can replace the role of communities, churches, faith, and family.
Not surprisingly, a University of Maryland study released last month confirms children of parents who keep close tabs on their whereabouts and have knowledge of who their friends are, are less likely to use alcohol, get involved in drug usage, and more likely to be peer leaders in their groups; so clearly the most important role in deterring antisocial behavior of youth is with the parents.
But there is also a role for government. Michigan has been a leader in efforts to improve school safety. Last year under Governor Engler's leadership, Michigan was one of the first states to require the immediate expulsion of juveniles who bring guns or other deadly weapons to school. Now, federal law has incentives for states to adopt mandatory expulsion policies as well.
Last year, Governor Engler also called to extend mandatory expulsion to any student who assaults a teacher or other school employee on campus, on the bus, or at school-sponsored events. This bill was recently enacted by the Michigan legislature.
Let me be very clear about this point. Despite the critics, mandatory expulsion laws work and make our schools safer for the overwhelming majority of students that play by the rules.
In addition, the coming school year will be the third year that the Engler administration has required local school visits to develop school safely plans in collaboration with local law enforcement as a condition of receiving Safe and Drug Free School dollars.
In view of recent shootings around the country, nearly every state is trying to evaluate the need for information about troubled students and taking steps to enhance interagency information sharing.
Currently on its way to Governor Engler's desk is House Bill 4240. The bill requires the courts and police to share information with school officials regarding law breaking students. It calls for the Director of Michigan State Police, along with the State Attorney General and the State School's Superintendent to come up with uniform definitions for reporting incidents that affect school safety.
It is widely perceived school-based crimes are grossly underreported to law enforcement thereby making existing data inaccurate. Reasons for underreporting may range from lack of uniform definition distinguishing crimes from disruptive behavior to those stemming from denial, image concerns, or school policies.
To stop school violence, parents, teachers, and local law enforcement officials and policymakers must know where and when it occurs. Parents have a right to know if their children's school is safe.
Michigan's move to mandatory reporting should help schools in their safety planning process and will be most helpful to us in responding to local concerns. This data could also help federal policymakers as well in evaluating whether the Safe and Drug Free School monies are making a difference.
One federal law I'd like to highlight is the Family Educational Right and Privacy Act, FERPA. One of those acronyms we throw around so often. It's supposed to protect the privacy interests of parents and students with regard to school records. It applies to all K through 12 schools in Michigan. It contains the term "education records" which is broadly defined to include any documentary information related to a student and includes attendance records, student directory information, student health records, grade transcripts as well as records about disciplinary actions or proceedings.
While FERPA gives considerable deference to parents and states to create exceptions, under its provisions there are still significant obstacles contained in law which reverse the sharing of information between juvenile courts, law enforcement agencies, and schools.
The need for educators to share and receive information about student conduct, on or off campus, cannot be overstated. Schools that operate outside the juvenile justice system information network are at the same disadvantage as criminal justice systems that operate outside the school system without that school input.
The bottom line is that in order for us to have a cohesive strategy to address school safety, we all need the full participation of all the key stake holders. Parents will have to be parents. We will need to get back to installing morals, values, and ethics in our children. Congressman Kildee mentioned morals and ethics. That cannot be overstated.
We will need to help them reach their objectives but at the same time hold them accountable for their actions.
The shooting in Littleton, Colorado is a prime example of what can happen when parents fail to do the part of raising their children. By no means am I saying parents alone can solve this problem. No matter what happens in the home, once a child goes to school, it is up to the administrators there to also step up to the plate and do their part.
I can think of no higher responsibility than those of us who the hold position of public safety and public trust to take that responsibility seriously, and the total facts presented to us, and in Littleton it's clear the administration failed to take note of some of the warning signs.
That buzzer went off, and that kind of made me speed up my testimony and that's okay. I'm used to talking a long time. And I won't do that this time.
What I've also provided with my testimony is some written testimony that includes some suggestions of FERPA which I think will help facilitate the sharing of information which will facilitate the lessening of these incidents in the first place.
So because the timer went off, I'm through.
[The statement of Mr. Jackson follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. DARNELL JACKSON, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF DRUG CONTROL POLICY, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY HEALTH, LANSING, MICHIGAN SEE APPENDIX B
Mr. Upton. I think he had actually until the second beep went off. That's okay. We'll take advantage of that.
Chairman Castle. The timer is at four minutes. You have one minute after you hear the timer.
Mr. Upton. We'll give you a chance. Your entire testimony will be in the record, including your recommendation on FERPA.
We appreciate that. Our next witness is Bob Ezelle, and Bob is Executive Director of the greater Kalamazoo Boys & Girls Club. He has been so active in this community for many, many years and has made for all of us that have visited there, he's made truly a tremendous and enormous impact in that area.
Bob's efforts have provided literally for hundreds, if not thousands, of kids a safe and positive alternative to life on the street. He works to instill the values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility to virtually every student that he meets.
I just wish that every community, not only across Michigan but across the country, had a man in their community like Bob Ezelle. Bob.
STATEMENT OF MR. BOB EZELLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB OF GREATER KALAMAZOO. KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN
Mr. Ezelle. Thank you. My apologies for showing up late.
I have some brief remarks in regards to violence and our youth of today. And sitting at this table are, I'm sure, a number of people who are as concerned about the violence as I am. And talking about putting on the hat of youth advocacy and recreation in a sense and trying to provide our kids with safe havens and a place which they can get involved and engage with positive adults in an after-school type setting. I'd like to have my remarks border on those lines.
Again, the recent events surrounding the shooting in Columbine High School, Georgia, and past juvenile situations these young people have put themselves in should galvanize us to redouble our efforts to prevent these kinds of tragedies from ever happening again.
As director of Boys & Girls Club of Kalamazoo, I take seriously my role as youth advocates by providing caring adults and resources and by encouraging kids to take active leadership roles in their neighborhoods and in their total community.
I recently learned that an 8-year-old member of the Bridgeport, Connecticut Boys & Girls Club, Leroy "BJ" Brown, was murdered along with his mother in January after he agreed to testify against a gunman who wounded his mother's boyfriend in a drive-by shooting.
Despite fearing for his life, the young man was a hero. He was the only person who came forward to identify the known drug dealer.
This in my opinion shows the type of leadership and type of role models that's necessary for young people to really take an active role and step up to the plate and say, "Okay, enough. This is what is right. This is what I'm going to do." It took an 8-year-old boy really in this community to set an example.
I think more examples need to be set regardless of what the consequences might be. I think you know young people need to be held accountable and take this type of leadership role. I feel it is our responsibility to protect our kids by sending a clear message to them that we will not tolerate this type of behavior in any way.
In my opinion, the youth of today are faced with a myriad of challenges, even more challenges than there were when I was coming up or we as adults in this room. The single most negative obstacle they face on a daily basis to me and to all of us pertains to violence. Whether they are victims of violence or perpetrators of violence, violence plays a significant role in the majority of our nation's youth.
I feel to adequately address the issue, we first have to start with the family by identifying assets or lack of assets regarding parenting skills.
No. 2, the area of accountability and zero tolerance and a consistent message of noncompromise I feel is very important as we talk about youth and we deal with our young people.
I reemphasize the community, state, and national message of consistent accountability must be honored at all costs with no exceptions.
If youth are involved in violent behavior, we must penalize and punish them for their actions. Fair and swift penalties will send, I think, a consistent message. By enforcing the laws, I believe we will eliminate most repeat offenders.
Thirdly, we must continue to provide youth with resources that will enhance the competencies necessary for these youth to handle conflict and develop reasonable reasoning skills.
Programs and activities that address social, physical, and mental well-being of our youth are equally as important as instilling values that relate to moral compasses missing in many of today's youth. These values include honesty, a sense of justice and fairness, respect, caring, and spirituality. We can begin to do many of these things and help promote a positive change by providing family support, to networking with human service organizations, to pooling resources to make a larger impact on our communities.
Most importantly, we must address race relations in terms of respecting cultural differences.
Again, in my opinion, a consistent message needs to be sent to our youth. It matters not what socio-economic level you represent. What matters is that you will be held accountable.
Mr. Upton. Thank you. The next witness is Jay Newman, superintendent of St. Joseph County Intermediate School District, a rural school district about 30 miles south of here.
In addition to superintendent, Jay currently serves as an officer of the International Quality Leadership Institute which is dedicated to public sector leadership directed towards the creation of healthy, safe, caring, collaborating communities.
We appreciate Jay's work in St. Joe County and his ability to come up to Kalamazoo County today to testify. Welcome, Jay. Good to see you.
STATEMENT OF DR. JAY NEWMAN, SUPERINTENDENT, ST. JOSEPH COUNTY INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL DISTRICT, CENTREVILLE, MICHIGAN
Dr. Newman. Thank you. Sorry for also being late. I was in East Chicago working on some school violence issues with a collaborative group of people, so this is a very hot topic.
I appreciate the opportunity to be here. Thank you very much for inviting me.
So much has been said about the tragic events that have occurred in so many different places you can't even enumerate all of them at this point. There's been an outcry from people in our schools and communities that we need to do something. We need to take some type of action.
But what have the responses been? How effective are they as far as trying to create safe, caring, healthy communities?
One of the things that we need to know, the absolute truth is unless our communities are safe from violence, our schools will never be safe. We must focus on the total community and not just on the schools.
If there is a perception of danger out there in the community, there's always the opportunity for some person to fall into a survival mode, and in many instances this creates a greater danger than existed before.
We must realize that when one person is not safe, all people are in harm's way. Too often in our daily lives through our daily actions we create an environment that puts all of us at risk of being the victim of violence. Without thinking, we exclude people from the main stream of life. The underprivileged, those that are different, those that don't think the same way we do. As we do to the least of our human brothers and sisters we do to all mankind.
To produce healthy, free, and violence free schools and communities will require a comprehensive and unified plan. Comprehensive plans address the whole person, or in our case the schools, the whole students.
We must be cognizant of the fact that children are composed of many parts, and together schools, parents, and communities must assist in the development of the whole child. We must take care of their physical needs. Children without proper nutrition, without homes in which to live, proper medical care, et cetera, are at a distinct disadvantage in school and in their total personal development.
We must also address the psychological, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs of our children.
These other needs are every bit as important as are the physical needs and intellectual needs, where we generally address things in schools, but we must also deal with the psychological, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of children in school.
In addressing these needs of our children, we must accept three facts. No. 1, schools cannot do it alone. No. 2, the world is different today than it was 20 years ago. Let alone 30, 40 and 50. No. 3, the problem will never be solved through legislation from Washington or Lansing. Our only hope is local communities will pull it together with their own resources and unify all of their efforts to achieve one common goal.
I have yet to meet an educator, local government or business or industry representative, clergy person, parent, et cetera, who in the quiet moment of self-reflection wants violence to be done to children. Everyone's on the same page. They all want children to be safe, healthy, yet through our inability to work together and agree upon some common core values, we have established an environment that not only condones but also creates opportunities for violence to be done to children.
There are some communities, however, that have seen some dramatic improvements in life for children and families. These communities are utilizing a four-pronged system for creating a healthy, safer, and more caring environment which all citizens can work, learn, and live.
This system does the following things: No. 1, it builds upon the strengths that already exist in the community and develops new strengths where they're needed. No. 2, they educate all learners, youth and adults, as to how to interact in a constructive, nonviolent manner while attempting to use differences that exist in all communities and in all human relationships.
No. 3, respond to the community's needs both in anticipation of issues and as a result of unfulfilled needs.
No. 4, it promotes personal development of all citizens so that every person is empowered to make a real difference in his or her own life and in the lives of others.
Local communities need help from Washington and Lansing and other governmental places in a very simple way: Reduce the red tape. So much red tape is required to receive back the money that we have sent to you, that in order to get some of the grants, those of us in rural areas will resort to hiring grant writers because we don't have the staff to do so ourselves.
In doing so, you end up spending 10 percent of your budget on trying to do some of these things right up front, somebody writing the grant. I think that's reprehensible. It needs to be a simpler process. Those who do not have the resources to apply for these grants can actually do so. There's a much better way. Let's eliminate the whole grant process. Deliver money to local school districts on the basis of a pact that is made based on potential achievement of goals and with the follow-up report.
Make the fund request a one-page request signed off by all the collaborating agencies. Require collaboration from the Family Independent Agency, mental health, physical health, or the health department. Police department. Courts require all of them to sign off in order to get the funds. And then for proof of effectiveness, provide annual reports.
We know how to do this. We have seen it work in St. Joseph County. We have a very viable organization in our Human Services Commission. It works very well. It's been rewarded. We have now received recognition from the federal government as a boost for kids' sites. The goal of that is to cut the red tape.
I want to thank you for this opportunity to share with you and to give some very important opinions. I have copies of this for everyone that you'll be able to take at any time. Thank you.
[The statement of Dr. Newman follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. JAY NEWMAN, SUPERINTENDENT, ST. JOSEPH COUNTY INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL DISTRICT, CENTREVILLE, MICHIGAN SEE APPENDIX D
Mr. Upton. Thank you, Jay. Our next witness is Dr. Susan Caulfield who is an associate professor of sociology at Western Michigan University. She is the director of ProjectFREE, a local youth development group and Vice Chair the Kalamazoo Coalition for Youth Violence Prevention.
She spends a great deal of her time working with youth and teaching them nonviolent resolutions to conflict. We appreciate the chance to hear her testimony.
STATEMENT OF DR. SUSAN CAULFIELD, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY, KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN
Dr. Caulfield. Thank you, and thank you for inviting me. I don't have a handout that will be written testimony. What I say will be whatever shows up in five minutes.
I am by trade a peace making criminologist which seems like an oxymoron. There's a small Green Peace making criminologist out there in the world who study the field of criminology and do so in a way not actually to reduce violence but to create a peaceful environment, and in personal life dedicated to creating a nonviolent and include ProjectFREE and for the mentorship of a peace leadership program that's coordinated and received money through the work of high school opportunities.
Given the few minutes that I've preciously been given, I'll touch a couple of factors. Many said we need to examine the approaches we have taken, and I would suggest that one thing we need to do is move ourselves away from individual approaches and move towards systematic approaches.
Certainly as a criminologist who works in a program of sociology, it's all too clear to me that's the key focus we need to take. My handout does elaborate on two key parts of that from a forthcoming publication I have.
One is the concept of peaceable schools. It's important to approach it as a peaceable school approach, not just a safe school or a drug free school.
But again, peaceable places are not only free of violence but actually present with peace which means that we have to model and engage in practices on a regular basis that teach young people the way in which we would like them to behave.
One approach I propose for doing that blends peacemaking, criminology, and a public health approach to violence and a partnership way to approach human possibilities, and briefly that means again a peacemaking approach elaborated on more is one that seeks to alleviate harm at all levels and among all players.
A public health approach suggests if we really want to do something about violence or cancer or anything else that we are plagued with that we need to do so from a prevention approach.
Prevention at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. We can't just react to the events that happened but find systematic ways we can keep them from happening at all levels. And in a partnership way, it is the very important piece of this puzzle which is that instead of using dominator models for trying to interact with other people to do something about harm, we have to find a partnership way. We have to work with each other. We have to align ourselves.
As Mr. Newman said, collaboration is key. Riane Eisler's work The Chalice and the Blade suggest if we continue to use a dominator model, we'll push ourselves into extinction faster than we already are.
Truly, if we wish to make changes in local communities, nation, and the world at large, we have to find a way to work together to work in ways that promote the gifts and talents of all people.
And I certainly propose that when talking about the work we do with youth, youth have gifts and talents beyond some of our expectations; beyond some of our belief systems. They can create meaningful, purposeful, and loving environments if we give them the opportunity to do so.
And even when they are acting out in harmful behaviors, I do not suggest they don't be held accountable, but to exclude, expel, and suspend will not reduce violence.
Look at the criminal justice system. We have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, and it doesn't do anything about our crime problem. So we have got to find a way to work with those youth and stop trying to work against them.
We have to address the structural arrangement of school and of communities and of the workplace. We have to find a way to model. That hierarchy is not going to get us where we want to go. Domination won't do it. Competition won't do it. We have to work with people and model what's important. The ways in which we can do that, we have to start with adults. That's not always easy because we like to think that we know the best way to do things.
I'm offering this with the greatest deal of respect. Based on what happened in Washington, D.C. Just last week, I would like to put into testimony the Ten Commandments of Peaceable Schools as opposed to the ones that came from the Bible. And I think these should be posted everywhere adults congregate.
Thou shalt not insult the intelligence of young people. Thou shalt create meaningful learning environments. Thou shalt not play favorites in the classroom, on the sports field, in extracurricular activities, or with school funding.
Thou shalt provide adequate support for the needs of all students. Thou shalt be supportive of alternative approaches to teaching and learning. Thou shalt not rob Peter, for example, behavior specialists, to pay Paul, for example, the smaller classrooms.
Thou shalt seek and support meaningful collaboration with the nonschool community. Thou shalt model, at all levels, practices of inclusion, acceptance, tolerance, trust, and nonviolence.
Thou shalt not apply dogmatic Band-Aids to problems with structural determinants. Thou shalt seek solutions that are systemic and comprehensive, and that are informed by students who represent diverse segments of the school and community.
I know from my personal experience if we want youth to be productive members of this community, and we want youth to do good work, we have to do it with them. Two of my high school seniors won a national award, they were one of the 16 in the country, and they won it because they proposed a peace leadership, wrote it by themselves, funded and built it by themselves. They're not the stars of any school they attend. Perhaps not the academically gifted, but they have gifts and talents schools do not often recognize.
If we truly wish to do something about violence in this culture, we have to start within. We have to start at the interpersonal level. Too many times the work we do is that of a caterpillar. If we want to have the grace and the beauty and the ability to fly like a butterfly, I suggest we crawl into those deep and dark spaces, sometimes hard to work with, and do the kind of work it takes to create meaningful change. It may go against some of our values and training. It may go against some of our socialization, but I truly believe from both experience and what young people tell me that it truly does matter.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak.
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. SUSAN CAULFIELD, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY, KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN SEE APPENDIX E
Mr. Upton. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Out next panelist is Caroline Burgess who is a high school student at Portage Northern. She's been dedicated to keeping fellow students off drugs and alcohol. She is a member of PALS, Peer Assisted Listeners, at school and is a member of the Youth Advisory Board, a youth organization that works to reduce alcohol and substance abuse among teenagers throughout the community.
STATEMENT OF MS. CAROLINE BURGESS, YOUTH ADVISORY BOARD, KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN
Ms. Burgess. Thank you for inviting me to attend this hearing today. I'm a senior at Portage Northern High School. I will be representing the Youth Advisory Board of Kalamazoo.
I must admit standing, or sitting as the case is, in front of a nationally known committee is intimidating; however, if you are willing to listen, I am willing to speak.
In preparation for this meeting, I have read and looked over some of the other students' testimony in previous Subcommittee hearings. Although these testimonies were well written, I had many additional concerns running through my head.
In many of the testimonies they contained the when's, where's, and how's of student violence, but I did not find one why or because. Solutions or suggestions were also absent from the few papers I had a chance to read.
Why would a student carefully plan out how they would destroy everyone in their path of rage? The answer is actually not that difficult. Hard to conceive, yes; difficult, no.
In the testimony of Brigit Moriarty on the Subcommittee hearing on May 18, she states about how can you legislate insanity? The question appears to downplay our ability to intervene. We should really be asking, how can you allow a person to become that insane? Or how could a person feel such violence and hatred at such a young age?
For a quick, socially acceptable answer, many blame it on the media, music, or movies, but in order for a true solution to appear, you must go deeper.
The Columbine High School shooting was a very tragic event and my sympathy is still with the people in the community, but the focus is on the victims who were shot by these "insane outcasts." I ask you here and now, did or did not the boys kill themselves there as well? As much as we need to focus on the ones who are still alive and recovering, how about focusing on what started this rage so we can end it and prevent it from happening again?
As many people said here today on this Committee, everything does start with the families. Families support, love, cherish, hold, and take care of you. Or at least they're supposed to.
Today with many single-parent homes, divorce rate rising and both parents working, how much time is focused on the family? The boys who started the Columbine shooting were deemed as outcasts of the school by jocks glaring and constantly calling them the "Trench Coat Mafia."
Now, imagine going home where no one cared, letting you create bombs in the garage and just not caring. Most would rather go with the negative attention than none at all, and that's what these boys did. Negative attention builds up and builds up. A person can only take so much negativity in one lifetime.
In Adam Campbell's testimony at the May 18 hearing as well, he states, "They hated everyone. Hate will cause wrong choices. If a person has a bad heart, you can't change it. Only God can change a bad heart."
While reading his statement, I pondered whether Adam had ever tried to say hi or even talk to these students who were branded from the normal society of high school.
Is it sad these boys had experienced so much pain, disappointment, anger, and sadness in their short lifetime. They could no longer handle the amount of angst created inside of them.
There's a way to intervene before emotions escalate to killing or violence, and it's our job to find it.
While listening to this testimony, you're probably thinking of what an odd approach I'm taking, but I strongly believe the root to this problem starts with being able understand the third-party victim, also known as the shooter. Neglect is a form of abuse, and abuse is a form of violence.
One day while watching a movie, the title escapes me, but a character states, "You need a license to drive a car and go fishing, but any man can be a father."
I realize the struggle that parenting is, but if one is submitted to constant agony at home and then forced to put up with more disgusting, vulgar tormenting at school, it's only a moment in time before they snap. This is not an excuse, just a reason. It's their why?
I'm a very lucky girl. To describe me, I'm stereotyped as an alternative kid. I dress weird and listen to music that gives my mom and dad a headache.
My freshman year in high school was hard. Many kids teased me, and every day I left school crying and considering suicide. But I made it through.
High school is the hardest time of your life lately. Without a strong set of friends or family background to lean on, survival is literally of the fittest.
With the quick pace of this society, we must intervene with any at-risk student during transitional years to make sure they'll be okay and can handle the millions of new things waiting their trial.
Although difficult, my goal today is to help find solutions to America's students of violence problems. Every school and every person can make a difference in someone else's life. Schools often provide many services for jocks or preps, stereotypically speaking of course, but ignore the average or not so popular kids with problems withdrawn from society. As a national effort, I strongly believe that schools need to focus on programming geared for everyone's needs. Something for all to feel involved in and be proud of so they would not need an escape. They would not need to resort to violence.
STATEMENT OF MS. CAROLINE BURGESS, YOUTH ADVISORY BOARD, KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN SEE APPENDIX F
Mr. Upton. You did a very good job. Thank you. You're going to be a tough act to follow, but if anybody can do it, it's a fellow I know pretty well, Pastor Phillip McElhenny, an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God Church here in Portage. He also serves as superintendent for First Assembly of Christian School K through 12 operated by the church.
His commitment to his family, church, and certainly to his family has been demonstrated throughout his ministry, and it is a real privilege to have him here today.
STATEMENT OF PASTOR PHILLIP McELHENNY, FIRST ASSEMBLY CHRISTIAN SCHOOL, PORTAGE, MICHIGAN
Pastor McElhenny. Thank you, Congressman. I would like to respond to this invitation regarding violence in our schools by sharing my personal thoughts with those who influence and have a responsibility to make a difference in our society today.
I probably will not share any new information, but I ask for sincere deliberation over the ideas presented and for a deep searching of all of our hearts so that healing may come to our country.
I have been deeply moved by the events of violence that brings us together today, and even the young lady to my left, thank you for your passion for which you shared.
I myself deal many times with picking up the pieces of children that have been left abandoned or uncared for by parents.
I struggle with the paradigm that things are only addressed when circumstances reach epidemic proportions. We as Americans tend to look over the so-called insignificant issues that if left unattended, they grow to be monstrosities in our lives.
One of these seemingly insignificant issues is moral leadership which in my opinion is the most significant issue in our country.
We are grossly lacking moral leadership in families, schools, and government. There is a lack of teaching the principles relating to right and wrong behavior. Synonyms such as ethical, virtuous, righteous, and noble help raise a standard of what is right and good. Children need to be taught not only to make choices for themselves, but to make the right choice. Not just what is right to them, but what is right, period.
Leadership needs to be ethical, suggesting fairness or what is equitable. It needs to possess virtue which is the manifestation of moral excellence. Leaders must take responsibility for wrong behavior and live righteously. Right before good and their fellow man.
Leadership needs to demonstrate noble character which is free from anything petty or dubious in conduct. These thoughts are simple but can be found in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.
I believe we are reaping in this generation what has been planted in the previous generations. We all want to point our finger at youth and say, "It's their fault." But the previous and current leadership in homes and government continue to fertilize this crop with amoral leadership. There are few heroes of our day and fewer examples of what is good.
When leadership decided to ban prayer in schools and disregard the Bible as our handbook for moral living, the seed was then made corrupt. Leaders lost vision for what would produce a good crop of decent human beings. The Bible says, "Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained," or become lawless. That's in Proverbs Chapter 29:18.
The Bible again predicts this type of behavior. This lawlessness that I will refer to is in second Timothy, Chapter 3, verses 2 through 3 in the New American Standard. "For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revelers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of good."
One cannot expect to reap where one hasn't sown. I would like to remind us all of one beginning place in history with the founding of Harvard University in 1638. Harvard College's first presidents and tutors insisted that there could be no true knowledge or wisdom without Jesus Christ, and but for their passionate Christian convictions, there would have been no Harvard.
Harvard's Rules and Precepts adopted in 1646, included the following essentials: No. 1, everyone shall consider the main end of his life and studies to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life. No. 2, seeing the Lord giveth wisdom, everyone shall seriously by prayer in secret seek wisdom of Him, and lastly, everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that they be ready to give an account of their proficiency therein, both in theoretical observations of languages and logic, and in practical and spiritual truths.
According to reliable calculation, 52 percent of the 17th century Harvard graduates became ministers.
In closing, I would like to call America to awake from its spiritual slumber. A country that is seeking to protect human rights and liberty must adhere to the only view that can account for such existence. C.S. Lewis writes, "If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be. If it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all." Thank you.
STATEMENT OF PASTOR PHILLIP McELHENNY, FIRST ASSEMBLY CHRISTIAN SCHOOL, PORTAGE, MICHIGAN SEE APPENDIX G
Mr. Upton. Thank you. Thank you very much. Our last witness is Mrs. Patricia Fitton from South Haven, Michigan, a small community on Lake Michigan, and is the mother of three school-aged kids. I look forward to hearing her thoughts and recommendations on how we tackle this issue on youth crime and violence. Thank you for coming.
STATEMENT OF MS. PAT FITTON, SOUTH HAVEN, MICHIGAN
Ms. Fitton. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Pat Fitton. I live in South Haven, and it's a privilege to be here today.
I, too, am interested in being part of the group of people who want to get serious about curbing youth violence and crime in our communities, state, and nation.
In the next five minutes I'll attempt to discuss three things. I will give my opinion on what families can and should do to promote a safe environment everywhere for the generation that we're raising, and I will suggest three priority areas of work for legislators such as yourselves to spend your time and my tax dollars on.
I believe that families are pivotal in forming character, teaching self-respect, and how to care for others.
I also believe that when families, churches, schools, businesses, and organizations share some common values, the entire community reaps the benefits of relative safety and peace.
Everyone, from children through the elderly, flourishes in an environment where people are more selfless than selfish.
The South Haven area has a population of about 10,000 people from September through May. Being a tourist community, our numbers swell in the summer months, yet we experience relatively little brutal violence and crime.
Our community is not, however, immune from such crimes. We lost a beloved elderly woman who was senselessly murdered at the hands of two teenage neighbors. There are rapes, beatings, threats, drug sales and abuse, domestic violence, and other significant crimes. Some of the perpetrators in these crimes are between the ages of 12 and 20.
One other very significant fact is this: Even though disrespect is not technically a crime, many public school students are guilty of maligning their teachers day in and day out and are getting away with it.
Even more of a disgrace is the fact that some irresponsible parents support their children's rotten behavior. They argue incessantly with school principals. These parents wrongfully win the arguments they wage because they literally grind down the very keepers of the rules.
This is intolerable. All in all, our community is a microcosm of society at large, and its citizens have had it with the direction that some of our people are going in.
Families are the basic building block of any community. Some families in our community are thriving in spite of being under assault by divorce, loss of jobs, and other stresses. Children are being raised by two parents, single parents, grandparents, step-parents, guardians. Whatever sort of family children find themselves in is what they grow up believing normal is.
I believe children should be loved enough to be taught how to speak and act respectfully. They should learn values like making due with less which will help them become less materialistic adults.
Parents should not hand children everything on a silver platter because it encourages selfishness. Children should be put to bed at appropriate times so they'll feel cared for and understand there are limits. They should not be teased or toyed with in any way so as to undermine feelings of security.
These very values: Respect, appropriateness, hard work, selflessness, the setting of realistic boundaries and promoting a sense of personal safety are the very underpinnings of community safety and peace.
Values need to be deliberately taught. Parents should sit down literally with pen and paper and make a list of things they want children to know before they wave goodbye at age 18.
My husband and I will be taking this advice ourselves to improve our parenting and focus our energy as wisely as possible on the nurturing of our children. We fully intend to send three strong, intelligent, confident young people into the world when it's time to do so.
Continuing with my thought on what families should be doing, I believe the use of television should be limited and carefully screened. The entertainment industry is out of control in this country. It is an arrogant power broker and it's filthy rich and does not have a functioning conscience. It is helping destroy our children.
The choice of music by all people, I'm not picking just on high schoolers, but for heaven's sake, it needs to be approved. There is no such thing as complete privacy in any home where parents care about what their kids are doing. As our young lady said, you don't build bombs in the garage without anybody knowing it.
I exhort all parents, including you legislatures, to show a stiff backbone and quit worrying about what your friends think when it comes to making choices on behalf of your kids. You only get a few years to do things right, and you have to have the guts to do what is not necessarily popular. Never apologize, for example, to anyone for the fact you go to church. Invite another family you know or some neighbors to worship with you so they can see what the benefits are of being part of a caring church family.
You three men seated before me have the responsibility to be good stewards of millions of tax dollars. I'm glad that you're willing to spend time and money curbing youth crime and violence.
My three suggestions for you are this: No. 1, strengthening existing laws by seeing that communities like mine actually get the state and federal funds they need to provide strong police protection and swift sentencing for convicted criminals. I assert that swift and severe punishment for crime is an effective deterrent.
Government action is needed to take guns out of hands of children. Do not be intimidated by the gun lobby. Limit the right to bear arms so that responsible hunters may purchase rifles and so police and military have weapons. The fourth amendment was never intended to give assault rifles and handguns to the general population. Don't be afraid to put teeth in our federal laws.
No. 2, provide tax relief for working families who aren't making it financially. Tax the rich. Stop catering to special interests. Stop fearing their power and don't cave into their demands. This will require toughness and integrity on your part, and each of you has those qualities. That is why you are in office. I believe that one source of anger in this world is the horrible disparity between the have's and the have nots.
Shore up our existing tax laws and lay some financial responsibility on those taxpayers who can handle it. This will begin to restore a sense that everyone in the community has a chance to succeed. People without hope are going to lash out in anger and frustration. That's where some of the crime and violence we're talking about comes from. In summary, stop boxing in the poor with unfair laws.
No. 3, instead of talking about how important education is, show it by earmarking a large amount of money for quality programs. When you do that, you will free communities up to concentrate on things like passing millages to improve our school buildings. People of all social and economic background will start to take pride in their communities and pour volunteer hours into kids' and adults' programs. With legislative support and encouragement, people can start to genuinely believe in government instead of rebelling against it.
My suggestions will not be quick or simple to implement, I know that, but I implore you to focus on a few key areas of concentration and do them well. You will not please everyone, so make the best choices you can and be responsible and work hard, and you will gain the support and respect of your constituents. You will also be able to live with yourselves because you have acted rightly, according to your moral and ethical convictions.
I think that's the formula for moving our communities in the direction of safety and pride and peace. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF MS. PAT FITTON, SOUTH HAVEN, MICHIGAN SEE APPENDIX H
Mr. Upton. Well, thank you very much. All of you. The hard part is now coming. We're going to try to limit our questions to five minutes.
Chairman Castle. Let me make a suggestion. Because there's so many witnesses, we each get like five minutes. It will be helpful if your answers are a minute, maybe a minute and a half if you could do it, so we could have multiple people answer questions.
Mr. Upton. We may have a couple rounds. First of all, I want to say thank you. I think you know, as we try to construct a well-informed panel, you all did a very good job. I'm proud of all of you for the information you shared with us. Not only in your written testimony, but certainly in your oral testimony as well.
And I have a lot of questions. I'd like to start off by just the statement that I know that kids can't learn unless they do have a safe environment. That's right up there on the wall. And I also know as I visited schools and just remember the number of schools that I went to, every school, every school district, they're all different. You cannot have a cookie cutter approach.
One approach is not going to work in every school in the county. Particularly, Jay, you see that as superintendent of how many schools?
Dr. Newman. Nine.
Mr. Upton. As I visited every one of those schools at all different grade levels, not only St. Joe but Kalamazoo and Berrien, Van Buren, and others throughout our state, I know that's true and I've got to say sort of a plug to you, Jay, knowing that Darnell Jackson is sitting only two people away; one of the complaints I've heard from some of the superintendents in our district, particularly for applying for the Safe and Drug-Free program, is that in fact the paperwork is still too much.
As much as we try to simplify it in Lansing coming back down, I've had a number of superintendents, when they know that I've been visiting their classrooms, actually come to the school and sort of chase me down the hallway with the forms that they have had to fill out and say, "Take this stack to Washington" and sort of show where to shove it. We've got to do a better job on that.
And I guess as you were testifying, Jay, I thought about some of those stories. And I thought, too, of a program I used to support and it's sad it's no longer here, but my city folks and county folks know it's called the old revenue sharing program.
A program that was based on a number of criteria that the computer cranked out based on population, needs, and tax; a whole number of different things. It was a multibillion dollar program as I recall, about $5 or $6 billion dollar program, I think. You had only about 20 people administer it.
There was no political pull as to who was going to get the money or whatever. And an audit was done and it worked fairly well. It had great reviews from the people here at home.
Sadly, it went away back in the '70s before I was in the congress, but Darnell, I don't know if you want to take that back knowing that -- Jerry is here as well -- might be something to take back with you. Have you been able to simplify some of that paperwork going to the school?
Mr. Jackson. I'm glad that question came up. I've been in this job two-and-a-half years now. One of the very first things I did was look at the hook application process of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. It was a nightmare. Safe and Drug-Free Schools is in every school district in the state of Michigan.
I formed two Subcommittees, reporting Subcommittees for the formulation of a simplified application process as well as a simplified reporting form.
Those committees were made up of Safe and Drug Free School coordinators around the entire state. I invited all of them to participate. I think we had a total of maybe 25 Subcommittee members. We split them into two different groups. We looked at the old application process. We looked at the old reporting form, performance, how do we make this more user friendly for you in the field. We simplified it tremendously.
The problem is there are still things that are necessary for federal requirements that we need to capture, so the next face is moving towards simplifying it at the federal level.
Mr. Upton. We're ready.
Mr. Jackson. Okay.
Mr. Upton. You have three listening. What would be helpful, I know the clock is ticking, if you could get some suggestions for us in terms of what we can do. I think you got three votes right here on both sides of the aisle, and we'll work our best with our colleagues to see if we can't help.
One of the things that all three of us supported was the flex bill just signed into law by the president a couple months ago, and again it's for streamlining that procedure so the dollars don't get hung up on some ledge or file drawer someplace, but, in fact, they really do get back home with little of the paperwork time that's necessary to see, and we would be glad to help in a bipartisan way, and you can help us particularly knowing we have got a couple other Members from Michigan on the education committee. We can take that back.
Mr. Jackson. I will do that.
Mr. Upton. You mentioned that expulsion laws work. And that was sort of a theme by a number of you here. Darnell, you mentioned that for the last three years you required a school safety report. Is that by each district or by each ISD?
Mr. Jackson. When they fill out the application for Safe and Drug-Free School dollars, we now require them to have a plan in place signed off by the prosecution, local police chief, and community groups, something that says in this community, this is our plan to address school violence, and school safety with drug free school dollars. Prior to three years ago, that was not a requirement in the application itself.
That still is not enough because while we can require that and ask that and push for that, sometimes, and I believe the gentleman alluded to it, sometimes those who are required to implement the process are still caught in old ways of doing things.
So we need to learn from the bad guys. They learn how to work together for a common good. Us good guys sometimes don't do that, so the object of the plan is to say this is the plan that we think will work in this community. We had all these people sign up and they reviewed the plan, think it's effective, and this is we're going to use Safe and Drug Free School dollars.
Mr. Upton. As you watched as that reporting has come in, what's been the trend line you have seen? I think on the national level we have had a slight increase in school violence. What do you know about what the trend line has been in Michigan with the reports you have seen?
Mr. Jackson. I do not, because this is not a report, per se. This is the application itself. This is what they're telling us, we're going to use Safe and Drug Free School dollars to implement these programs, these projects, in hopes of preventing violence from occurring.
I don't have the statistics on actual trend line as a result of that, but what it does is forces collaboration at the local level, and as the gentleman also indicated, no amount of legislation from Lansing or Washington is going to change.
The impetus behind the plan is force local collaboration, tell us at least in Lansing what you're planning to do with these dollars, and you can see how effective programs are. And there's been effective programs coming out of those local schools.
Mr. Upton. One of the most productive hearings that we have had, I thought, was the hearing that we had back right after Columbine when we had a number of students come testify. Not only from Columbine -- you might have watched it on C-Span, they had live coverage -- but also other schools that had been impacted by school violence. We had kids from Paducah, Kentucky, Oregon, and other places around the country.
And you know, as I sat on that panel and just listened to the testimony and was able to ask some questions as well. I thought really more of a parent than I did a legislature and sort of thought about all those images that went through your mind.
And one of the questions that I asked a young man from Columbine was if particularly he knew both of these boys. It was obvious he did, and I thought about and still hadn't really come out in terms of the answers yet, but I said, you know, I just cannot imagine the parents not knowing what was happening in that garage over that weekend, and particularly as I saw some of the press reports where a neighbor boy come over and heard some of the working of the metal and activity that was taking place, and my question was, where are the parents during all of this? You know, are they gone for the week? What's going through their minds?
You know eventually this is going to come out, I guess, because of some lawsuits. At this point it still hasn't, but you know, as I think about my two youngsters and schools they go to, and the schools that I visit across the district and I think about this issue of school violence and of all the different things, there is no cookie cutter approach, but it's got to have parental involvement. Communities have to know what's going on. Make sure there are after-school activities, and just get all these different sorts of building blocks to make sure that if that path is followed, they're not going to end up, hopefully, like Columbine. What can we do to try and include more parents into the system?
Dr. Newman. One of the things that, you know, in my 27 years now in education I have noticed over time is that there's a great deal more isolation that exists within communities. Parents don't connect the same way today that they did in the past. And even though they live in a neighborhood and there's house after house after house, they aren't connecting on a basis of communicating what's going on. They're trying to raise their kids in isolation without looking for help from other parents, other organizations, the church, whatever. They're not connecting with those people.
We need to help draw them out. There are some very good programs that are going on now that were developed right within the school and have parents that actually run and operated and done and outreach. Rather than schools outreaching the parents, let parents outreach the parents. Use the school as a base. There's also good programs that are designed to connect parent to parent. Parent-to-parent education programs. Parent-to-parent communication programs.
When a parent feels in isolation, am I doing this all by myself, they don't have a comparison of how other people are doing it. And we need to truly get them connected to know they're not going through this raising of adolescents all by themselves.
I have three of them myself I have gone through. That's a very trying time. It's very difficult to raise adolescents in this world without other parents dealing with the same thing to discuss that with. It's a very frightening experience. We're fortunate because we used our church. We used the school, but there's a lot of people trying to do it all by themselves.
Dr. Caulfield. I think it helps also to look historically. We raise the issues of parenting, and it's one of those supposed socially constructed demons that's hard to work with. But if we look historically at families and parenting in the U.S. Society, especially looking at the work that Stephanie Koonstone did as a historian, we find families and parents are not necessarily really that much worse than they were at any previous time in our culture.
We have a tendency instead to look at our own background. If it was good, then why don't other kids have the family that I had? Something that would be helpful with that, Ms. Fitton already mentioned, which is writing tax relief for working families and also looking at the way in which we do or do not support the maintenance of keeping businesses within communities in this country.
There's been far too much support, I believe, at the national level to allow businesses to move not only to the south but to move right out of the country and give them tax support to do so.
When we do that, we're taking good paying jobs, mostly union-supported jobs, where people would make a decent wage, taking them out of the country and not putting them back in, and we're surprised when both parents have to work and we like to castigate them and say, "You don't have to work, you want too much in this society." That's not true. Most of the families I know where both parents work do so because we have to. We have to provide meaningful support for parents if we want them to have time.
I'm not trying to create excuses for people who may not have what some of you have. Proper parenting techniques, I agree, some people don't do it. Well, unfortunately again we can't legislate. Do it by creating meaningful jobs with good wages. We can do it by creating meaningful opportunities. Parents involved in the school system. So I think, you know, there are ways that we can approach that. Tell parents that who they are themselves matters.
Mr. Upton. I think my time has long expired, so I'll pass the time to my colleague, Mr. Kildee.
Mr. Kildee. Thank you very much, Fred. Yesterday was Father's Day, and I got calls from my three adult children. One from Boston, one from Tampa who just returned from Kenya, and one from Sacramento. And my son Paul who's 26, captain in the army, said, "Dad, thank you for teaching me to say yes to myself but also to say no." I think that's very important. Certain things people have to be taught to say no to, and I thought Paul summed it up very wisely, and I felt very good I tried to teach him to say no to certain things.
I'm going to address Dr. Caulfield, Dr. Newman, and Dr. Royster primarily. What is the role of cliques or groups, or special interest groups, in school violence? What can we do to help those groups, whether it be athletes or musicians, whatever they may be, some club. What can we do to help those groups understand people can be different, have different interests, and still be good or tolerable?
There are going to be groups in school, how can we help them understand a little more?
Dr. Caulfield. Thank you. I appreciate the question. How do we allow them to accept each other rather than try and get rid of them, which we often hear movement towards. How to get rid of the trench coat mafia. We know young people will group together. They have to. It's part of the socialization and developmental process. We also know it's modeled for them. Modeled, again, you have your turf, you have your team, so they're going to create and if they don't belong to one set already established by the school or established by the community, they'll create their own. Some of the ways is teaching tolerance.
Fortunately in the Kalamazoo County area, there is the Diversity Leadership Program which I know has been working with groups, and teams that are at the various high schools on how do you appreciate diversity and tolerance. They're a brand new program, only a year old. I'm sure they still got a lot of work to do there.
We have to teach tolerance, but one way in which we teach that, though, is again go back to my reaction we have got to model it, and that means teachers not playing favorites. Not kicking out those who don't fit with the traditional or main stream academic practices. There are at least seven documented different ways of learning, and not everyone can learn by sitting and listening to a lecturer or by being told to memorize a book.
That does not mean that they don't have gifts and talents. We have got to find ways to include them. That way then models what may be included in other ways as well.
Mr. Kildee. In real life I was a school teacher. I taught at Central High School, and we had adverse groups, and I remember at the time I helped establish a human relations council, to help people understand one another.
Dr. Newman. One of the most effective ways within a school setting breaking down some of those barriers is to take on some tasks that are more community based in nature. Community service type activities. Not necessarily things that would be required.
As you know, some schools don't require community service, whatever you want to call it, but to do some real community service type activities and getting cross-representation from various groups and various teams to work on certain things.
A simple thing like a canned food drive and dividing up a school into various teams for collecting that and making sure that you have representation on each of the teams, kids from different backgrounds, so they learn to work with one another in order to achieve a good outcome.
I have seen this work in a number of schools where they have tried these types of things. Colon High School in our county has had an ongoing project which they have been raising funds for relief efforts in various parts of the world, and they have done some phenomenal things. And kids from different cliques within that community have come together in order to support that process.
So community service is a good way. Once they start working together, they can look beyond their differences and start looking at how they're similar.
What are the ways they are compatible? One of the things you have to do in Congress in order to get anything done - you know that if the Republicans try to railroad things through, the Democrats can really kind of stymie the whole process, so you have to learn to cooperate, put the differences aside, and look at the similarities, the things where you agree.
Kids are the same way, and you can do that within the context of a school and in these types of projects. You can also have them involved in school improvement projects.
I'm the co-author of a book empowering students to transform schools. It's based on projects that have been done in about seven or eight different high schools around the Midwest, Chicago, Sturgis, where I was a principal at the time. Some places in Iowa and Kentucky had phenomenal results when you get students actively engaged working together to resolve issues that exist within a school or within a community.
Mr. Kildee. Dr. Royster.
Dr. Royster. I spoke earlier about the alienation people feel sometimes in the school environments, and I would agree with all that's been said but would approach it from a different point of view of making sure that the school culture is shaped to embrace differences and that the standards and norms of the school are set such that children understand them and can participate.
So many of the schools, the culture of the schools and norms of the school don't embrace all children. They allow a wide range of opportunities for children to make decisions about what goes on during the school day. Schooling is very simple. We're there to ensure that children achieve, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the processes and strategies and support systems are in place to embrace all students.
We know when students are off track, and sometimes we ignore that. It is our responsibility to find out what's going on with the youngsters and to get them engaged, so it's not that complex. It is tough work. There is no doubt about it, it is complex work, and I think we have to be honest about that and up front and not allow any of our children to be ignored in the school environment. Because what they're asking us for is to be connected, and when they're not connected they're going to find connection in other ways, and they find it within the school and unsavory and negative and nonproductive ways, so it's an issue of connection to our purpose which is social and academic success for all students.
Mr. Kildee. Pastor, do you have any comments?
Pastor McElhenny. Sometimes I'm labeled as a reductionist, but I think a key element and something we're able to achieve in the Christian environment is teaching students to be their brother's keeper. The idea of tolerance, when we teach tolerance just to be tolerant, we become tolerant of separatist groups because we're supposed to be tolerant. But we have to realize tolerance is not always the answer. It's learning the Biblical principles that while we are tolerant of each other, it's because we are our brother's keeper.
The gentleman down here talked about isolation. That's something that we in the privatization of our society, we see people more isolated today. Insulating themselves from each other. We work very feverishly to generate the crossing over of ideas and merging together belief systems and being willing to put down at risk, set aside our own personal agenda so we can work together for a common cause.
One of the things in the Christian community, too, we say that like spirits attract. And so students of like personality are going to hang with students of like personality.
Those are things that I think are basic in the human nature. We're not going to change until we give a basis for that change. And here again, being a minister of gospel, I'm a proponent for Bible-based curriculum. We look at our schools, and I know there's legislation now and I know there's enactment right now that is working, so put Bible-based curriculum in schools, and I know there are 25 states that have adopted such type of curriculum, so I think that would be a big help.
Mr. Kildee. Ms. Fitton.
Ms. Fitton. Just a quick comment. You know, everyone's talking about connecting and it has a tremendous amount of value in that. I happen to coach soccer, and I've got young women who are great and some who are kind of bad, and you do work on cohesiveness to be a team. You know, you can stretch that right into what everyone's saying about high school. There are cliques and those cliques are cruel to one another.
The kids need to know it's not okay to treat one another badly, and the adults need to be taught that you must indeed do something to, you know, do the same things at home. Do some things in the communities and churches to get rid of some of that behavior.
We were talking about isolation. I raised my kids in play groups. That's our answer, my generation's answer to hanging over the fence and saying hello. People don't do that anymore. So the moms and dads who cared about socializing did so by forming groups and getting together. That's a marvelous solution for nowadays.
I just wanted to say if you look for it, you can find skills in every child, every high schooler, every young adult. Those people, when they talk to someone who cares about them, they'll know right away that that person cares and you can definitely bring out the best in someone, even someone who is not the stereotypical achiever, and we have to keep remembering we have to try to do that in whatever structure we're in.
Mr. Kildee. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Castle. Well, thank you. I'll take a few minutes to answer some questions. By the way, based on what I've read about the women's soccer, you ought to continue your interest in that. You'll be a wealthy lady, all the people getting out on their games.
Caroline, we thank you for being here. I remember when I first testified before Congress I think I was an elected official. I was trembling. I can imagine what it's like to be a high school student, but I really congratulate how articulate your message was. You did very well.
Remember we have to vote in Congress, and you can refrain from voting but you want to put up your hands. Pat mentioned one of the things we should do is take guns out of hands of children. Others mentioned crime, whatever it may be.
This is a summary of an issue we voted on last week. It was a very interesting circumstance, but do you believe as people who are concerned about violence with children, do you believe that the guns should be allowed to be sold at gun shows with no restriction whatsoever other than federally licensed gun dealers who have to go through a waiting period, the Brady bill, or do you think any gun sold at a gun show should be subject to instant background checks, and if there is a problem in the background check, there are three days in order to find out if anything is wrong?
Who believes there should be no checks whatsoever? This group of eight people. Who in the whole room believes there should be checks? What the heck, let's expand. Who believes there should be some sort of instant background and waiting period if there's some sort of arrest problem?
Almost unanimous. Interesting. We didn't get that done in Congress which is frustrating.
Let me ask another question. I may not phrase this quite right but this interests me, too. And it pertains to potential lead-ins to violence. And that is as you all know, we have ratings on movies now which we generally follow. Even though on television programs you can get some ratings, but there are unrated items out there. At least any sort of systematic fashion, there are games that you can buy and some videos that are not movie videos, dance videos, matters of that nature and various other things.
Do you think that all of those kinds of things which children may end up using should have some kind of a rating system? I don't know what it would be, but some sort of rating system that gives some sort of indication what the content is so the parents can supervise.
How many here think there should be some sort of rating system on those kinds of items? Games, movies, videos, whatever it may be. How many think there should not be, and that is government intrusion?
A little more divided on that. It's interesting because these are issues with which we struggle in the Ccongress of the United States. Sometimes I think we don't help ourselves.
Another area of school violence discussed at the beginning of all of this by Dr. Royster, is something I'm a great believer in, the 21st century learning program. I'm not quite the believer the president is. He wants to triple the money. I don't know if we can afford it, but I believe in it as strongly as he does.
These are programs between three and six, and I would think the Boys & Girls Clubs have been very involved in these programs in Delaware, and I'm sure in Michigan as well, and my question, is you have indicated you have gotten money, and I think you said 4,000 students are involved?
Dr. Royster. We'll be implementing for the next school year.
Chairman Castle. The question is, I am very interested, in fact it's in part of that Juvenile Justice bill, the part we passed last week to study exactly what are the best programs out there and try to implement them around the country. How did you learn? Hit or miss, or how did you learn what kinds of programs might work for those kids without going into too much?
Dr. Royster. Absolutely. Our information and knowledge based on the types of programs we will implement came from a collaborative approach with our community. Mr. Ezelle was part of that dialogue and provided input for the kinds of programs that we should craft. There's a lot that goes on in Kalamazoo to support children. It is a very supportive community.
So what this afforded us is the opportunity to, of course, bring structure to what already existed in the community and to utilize our schools as the centers of our community for taking care of children between the hours of three and six with the focus of academic and social success at the core.
That will take on many different forms in our schools across the nation and indeed in Kalamazoo. We won't have a program that is the same from elementary. We will mirror and support the needs of the children in the existing schools. For example, one middle school is very focused on the arts. Another is very focused on technology. I would expect to see different programs, but I would expect that all of the programs will be supporting academic and social success.
Chairman Castle. Well, maybe I should get you in on this. Do you have programs where the girls go to Boys & Girls Club after school care?
Dr. Royster. Absolutely.
Chairman Castle. Do you go to any of the schools, or do you go at all to Boys and Girls Clubs?
Mr. Ezelle. Both of our schools are located either adjacent or in public school building.
Chairman Castle. Very, very, very successful.
Mr. Ezelle. We're very supportive of the academic challenges that our young people have, and so we support our public school system immensely. It's very important to us.
Chairman Castle. You feel integrated with the school system?
Mr. Ezelle. The organization identifies four areas we thought were very important. I'll quickly go through these. Enhanced education, career preparation, technology, and race relations. And having said that, it's very important that we really pay close attention to those four areas and underscoring that we want all of our kids to be able to graduate with state endorsed diplomas.
The key to success for our young people is through education. The race relations part, again I have to go back to that as we talk about violence. I think that there are cliques and incidents as we look at our country, and the cross-section our country, you look at what's going on. You can see we really need to address these areas.
We talk about holding our kids accountable, talking about sensitivity of privacy. Why don't we know what kids are doing? In my humble opinion, we are sensitive to kids' privacy. We give kids these responsibilities before they're mature enough to handle responsibility. That's why I say holding kids accountable, we need to start doing that at an early age so they understand there's no compromise. If something happens we really need to be able to deal with your actions and your behavior. It's hard to change those behaviors, but we have to start at an early age.
Chairman Castle. Let me ask a question ridiculously too big for this forum, but I'll try it anyway. Maybe it's something we haven't heard already. All of you have in some way or another suggested the importance of parents and how they're the first source when you get right down to it.
Schools obviously are secondary to what happens at home, and we know a lot of the problems, both parents working and just a multitude of interests out there, but everyone says it's hard to get back to the good old days, whatever it may be. Maybe there are things we can do. Do you have any small thoughts, small but powerful thoughts about things we might be doing with respect to things we could do in congress, you could do, society should be doing to make sure the parents are fully engaged with their children?
Like a lot of you, I'm shocked the parents in the Columbine situation seemed to have no sense of what was going on, or at least that's the way it appears to be now, and other circumstances we learned about; Pat's talking about parents need to be engaged in some responsibilities. How can we challenge those parents? What can we do? Any other thoughts or items you have?
Mr. Jackson. Sometimes I go against the grain with some of my answers, so this might be a little bit against the grain of this hearing, but we can't legislate parenting. But one of the things I did in the Saginaw Police Department, is, we at the city council, passed a parental responsibility ordinance which basically says if your child is charged with something, you're going to come in front of the judge and you're going to be charged as well to get your attention.
That's not all cases, but that may be the last resort. The first remedy to get parental involvement. You can't legislate the parents' responsibility, but you can at least get their attention. Sometimes that's what it takes. Just like anyone else who's charged, give them a series of events and eventually you charge that person. That's not the first line of defense, but that may be something local cities take a look at.
It was very effective in Saginaw when we charged the kids with truancy as well as the parents. That's not the first line, but at least gets them in the forum. You can talk to them.
Dr. Newman. One of the things I think is critical of the whole process, we have to get started early enough in the child's life and with the parents as being parents so we can make a difference. If you wait until they're in high school and then even with parental responsibility act, I mean, that's way after the horse has left the barn. And we have to take a look at this very early in the process. Programs that will allow us to have people that can get into the homes so we can actually be in the living room and work with parents as they're living, learning how to be parents and then as they transition to school, and then relationships between the school teachers and school administration.
As parents we can start developing positive things there, and what traditionally happens about third grade is we have to be on guard and very efficient trying to maintain those relationships with those parents right on through fourth, seventh, tenth grade, and keep those going so that the conferences between school personnel and parents don't drop off from 90 percent in first grade to only 10 percent by the time they're seniors. We need to keep that active involvement, but we can help even by getting from birth to three programs, if we have the opportunity to do that. We can help teach parents how to be better parents even before the kids get to a point where they're in trouble with police.
Chairman Castle. We're starting to run out time. I understand Susan and Pat want to make brief comments.
Ms. Royster. I have to go. I have another appointment, but I want to say that again given what we have learned through the criminal justice process, trying to do it legislatively, I do not believe is going to work. We have not seen evidence of it. I'm not in favor of parental responsibility because holding parents legally responsible for what their children do is not a good measure of what it does. It does not get to the root cause. Again, it's a reaction.
Instead of what Mr. Newman is saying something more about trying to create earlier programs to create, help encourage parental responsibility and create opportunities to give parents the support that they need is crucial. But to bear in mind while Columbine is a tragedy, we're not suffering an epidemic of youth violence or of poor parenting, and maybe instead of trying to go after the parent, again we have to look at some more structural issues of how we can create more supportive communities.
And while you're not sure we can give three times as much money as President Clinton might ask for, I would suggest if we reassessed our priorities, we could put a lot more money into schools and families than we currently do and not into some of the things we are putting it into. I'm sorry, I have to go, but thank you very much.
Chairman Castle. Thank you. Appreciate you being here.
Ms. Fitton. I wanted to briefly say perhaps there is a way to provide incentives for adults who would like to volunteer in their children's schools and classrooms. There used to be a little movement toward that, but so many adults are under such tremendous pressure to never leave the office during the day. They're punished for going to help these schools.
Is there a way legislatively to support businesses who encourage volunteers?
Chairman Castle. I'm way over my time. May I ask one more question? I'm the Chairman. I want to ask the pastor, you said - I wrote it down - that America should be called awake from its spiritual slumber as well as talking about the morals and ethics that you and I, and people who are in positions of being looked to, sometimes really absolutely should practice.
How do we do this? I mean, I know, you know, I don't disagree with you at all, we can't immediately put the blame in the school. It's not that simple, but to me it's a slow turning process. Like a big ship. It's real hard to turn it. I don't mean to make it too simplistic, but in a relatively simple way how do you start to do some of those things to help society have an awareness, and I say "society." Obviously a lot of people do today. I'm talking about maybe in a general sense there is less spirituality.
Pastor McElhenny. That's a big question. Something I often ask myself. I feel that we have strayed far from the founding of our country and the values that we once held so dear, that all of us held similar values, and I think that's where maybe the largest difference comes in our society today is that our value systems are not the same. We're not holding to the same values.
Because our learning platforms are different. Here again to try to bring unity to the learning platforms I know is a great challenge, just like there's been legislation to unify the education systems across our nation and come up with a national education program.
There's been legislation that way, but it's legislation that's absent of material that gives a moral fabric. I was reading something just recently that was sent across my desk of some nondirective education that our students are getting ahold of right here in Kalamazoo.
It really concerns me the information that children are getting a hold of and are not being told or taught a value of abstinence before marriage. It's values like this I hold so dear, and I link a lot of these behaviors that students have. They're not isolated. You can't isolate violence and sex. And the other things, they go hand in hand. And it's all because, in my opinion, that we have left the thing that I value so much in my life as my means of understanding values, the Bible.
When I hear that congress can pray in the opening of a session but then we can't prey in public schools, that breaks my heart. I'm a principal and superintendent of a Christian school, and we do those things, and sometimes we're not careful because we take for granted the things that are prevalent to us, and we can read the Bible. We can pray. We can do things like that. Even sometimes our students do not realize the value of that, and we continue to try to teach that.
I know it happens at the grass-roots level, and I know it's going to take time to turn our country, but just two weeks ago we hosted a Russian General in our congregation; he was formerly atheist in thought but turned in his heart to Christian thought and gave his heart to the Lord Jesus because now he understands there is a God. And his fervor is to put Bibles back in the Russian schools.
When he went back and told his own Russian colleagues that in America they do not allow the Bibles in the school, they had a difficult time believing that because they know what our nation was founded on.
And so, sir, I would say with all due respect to you and integrity, that you men hold in our places and your leadership that you give us, please hold to the lines of integrity. Please hold to the value systems that we know that made this country great. Because we see it slipping away from us, and as a minister and as a parent involved in education of our children, one of the philosophical statements we have in our school, and we become an extension of our home, and we exist to continue to do in our school what parents do in their homes, which I know that can't be held true for every situation across our nation, but that's what we prefer to do because we believe the parents have the responsibility to educate their children. They have the responsibility to raise them up, and standards of values that all of us would hold dear.
Chairman Castle. Thank you. Congressman Upton, questions or closing comments.
Mr. Upton. Jay, you want to say something?
Dr. Newman. I want to make a brief comment. I stated in my comments about the spiritual nature of the child and needing to address that as well. One of the things I think needs to take place is a dialogue between the local public schools and the local faith community.
I think the administration and representatives of the teaching staff at various schools need to sit down with the faith community and go from one community to the next. That complexion can change because we have a great diversity in this country and we need to address that and find some common ground, and we can discuss these things. I don't think our Constitution or the supreme court said we can't discuss this and find ways that are reasonable for communities to do with this.
Chairman Castle. Well, thank you and thank you all. We have come to the time when, of course, we already had to lose a couple people, all of you have probably other things to do. I'll turn to Congressman Upton a brief closing, and we'll wrap up.
Mr. Upton. Again, I just want to thank all of you for being here. I think it's been a very good discussion. I look forward to going through all your testimony, and certainly as I continue to serve on this Subcommittee, I would like your input on issues that we deal with.
I look forward to following up with Darnell to make sure, because I know that it's helpful in our schools trying to get that flexibility as it's out there because it's important, particularly as we look at things like the work that all of you have done at this table in terms of our own life, raising your kids, being involved in the community, and making sure that those kids are connected. Connected to something that will make sure that they will turn out to be something great instead of ones that might resort to violence or crime and really have a positive impact, improve every community across our district.
I appreciate your time, your efforts, and I look forward to working with each one of you to make sure that we can continue to look forward. Thank you Mr. Chairman, Congressman Kildee.
Mr. Kildee. I thank you for assembling such a great panel. This has been a really excellent panel. Each and every one of you I thank personally and thank you collectively.
I have always said education is a local function and a State responsibility. It's also a very important federal concern. It is a federal concern because we live in a very mobile society. Those educated in Benton Harbor can end up in Sacramento, California, and vice versa. We have certain national interests in education.
I do think that when I taught school, I tried to instill in my students at Central High School certain principles that I think are integral to a decent society and integrity and responsibility, and honesty.
Pastor, I used to tell a story. There's a student working at the Krogers sacking groceries working hard, and with that money he's able to buy maybe some new wheel covers for his car. And he drives to a basketball game and some freeloaders steal those hub caps. Arent they really stealing his labor, right? Those things can be taught. They can be taught in any setting. Honestly. The law says stealing is illegal. I think much can be done. I tried to do it with my students at Central High School. Integrity, responsibility, and honesty. And I think we have to look at those values that really are universally accepted as real values. I want to thank you all of you for your testimony today.
Chairman Castle. Thank you very much. Let me also thank Fred for asking all of you to be here. You go into this as an optimist, and then you hear the extent of problems and you start to become a little more pessimistic about our ability to manage all of this, but in the long run this is a hearing which is very helpful for us. It's not just us, your testimony will be taken and distributed to Members of the Subcommittee and the full Committee and their staffs, and it will be looked at by a lot of people who will try to figure out what are the right answers in terms of what we're doing. We want to do the right thing.
In Congress we're only a small part of the answer. We understand that, but we want to make sure our part at least is correct and you're willing to come out today and you spend all your time preparing. For this is a tremendous value to all of us, and hopefully it will guide us to whatever the right decisions are.
We really appreciate it and thank you a great deal for that, and hopefully you'll see the fruits of your labor at some point in the near future.
With that, unless there's anything further, we stand adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:55 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]