Let’s hope that Wednesday's shooting at SuccessTech Academy in downtown Cleveland doesn’t result in the traditional, knee-jerk reaction that has made metal detectors the sole response to violence in schools, and an increase in disciplinary school slots the answer to all our questions about what to do with troubled youth.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer this morning reported that 14-year-old shooter Asa Coon in previous years had been ordered to undergo psychological testing, had attempted suicide and was prescribed two medications. Burns to his arms and scratches on his forehead signaled domestic abuse and thus had forced a call to the Department of Children and Family Services. Asa was released from probation after five months without incident.
But his fight prior to that shooting should have been considered an “incident,” for which mere suspension for such a troubled youth was a shallow answer.
Let’s hope that the chorus of “why’s” that are sure to follow this shooting, also incorporate the role adults played in this 14-year-old’s access to two revolvers and a duffel bag of ammunition.
But I fear it will instead increase our salacious appetite for one-size-fits-all punishments of students, and more expulsions of kids for carrying a pencil sharpener and a finger nail file, considered "weapons" by some Philadelphia administrators and officials.
And while we’re assessing blame, let’s give credit to the Cleveland school system and the Gates Foundation for what they did right around SuccessTech – for building a small school with small, manageable class sizes, for motivating its population of mostly minority, low-income kids to reach high expectations, and for graduating 94 percent of its students. Here’s hoping that those kids, that school and the rest of us will grow and not shrink in appropriate reaction to this incident.