Do Students Trust Authority?

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Editor’s Note: The following article was written by a youth reporter who is a graduate of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program class at People for Community Recovery, a not-for-profit organization based in the Altgeld Gardens public housing development.

In March, a city-wide youth media group called Nuf Said put out an online and written survey. Nuf-Said is a group of youths from various youth media organizations that came together to find out what young people in Chicago think about education, housing, health, violence and employment.

Once the survey results were in, Nuf-Said participants created media around the statistics to explore how true they are. The survey had a question about a student name Amri getting in a student named Jaden’s face after school over something that had happened in the school lunch room.

The surveyed youths were asked if they would call an authority figure like a teacher or cop. 6.4 percent of the students said they would, while a combined 48.2 percent of students felt they should do something to get back at the other person and 42.3 percent said they would just walk away.

Another question on the survey provided statistics that show a combined 49.1 percent of students felt walking away will lead to violence and 32.7 percent felt they would lose respect among their peers if they walked away, whereas 22.3 percent of the students thought calling an authority figure such as a teacher or police officer would make them feel protected.

This number is fairly low as a combined 73.2 percent of students thought going to an authority figure would only make the situation worse.

I interviewed some boys from the Altgeld Gardens community, where I live. I asked them all the same questions. David, a resident of Altgeld, was the first youth to be interviewed.

MA: Did you ever have a problem that happened in school and led to an issue outside?
David: Yes.

MA: Would you take the problem to the teacher or police?
David: No, because people would think I was a punk and think I was scared of them.

MA: Did you make it clear to other students that you don’t want to fight?
David: Sure, but if they don’t keep messing with me, I will do a submission and hurt their arms and hurt their legs, then swing with all my might to knock them out.

MA: If the issue carries on outside of school, how would you handle it?
David: I try not to fight but if I have to fight, I will. I get fed up and can’t keep them from trying to fight me. Then I’d get a knife or a baseball bat and go to work.

The next boy I interviewed was Elgin. He lives in the Gardens too. He answered the questions differently than David.

MA: Did you even have a problem that happened in school and led to an issue outside?
Elgin: Yes, I walked away and still ended up fighting.

MA: Would you take the problem to the teacher or police?
Elgin: Yes, I would tell a teacher.

MA: Did you make it clear to other students that you don’t want to fight?
Elgin: Yes. I have made it clear to everyone I don’t want to fight.

MA: If the issue carries on outside of school, how would you handle it?
Elgin: If it carries on, I would tell an adult. If they keep bothering me, I’m going to beat them up.

Henry, another young Altgeld resident, saw me asking questions and didn’t mind being interviewed, so I asked him the same questions as David and Elgin.

MA: Did you even have a problem that happened in school and led to an outside issue?
Henry: Yes. It has carried on outside.

MA: Would you take the problem to the teacher or police?

Henry: Yeah. I would take the problem to the teacher.

MA: Did you make it clear to other students that you don’t want to fight?

Henry: Yeah, I told everybody, ‘Man, don’t bother me.’

MA: If the issue carries on outside of school, how would you handle it?
Henry: I would walk away from the problem and if the problem follows me, I would let them know I’m not going to talk and then handle business.

I went to my old grammar school to talk to a teacher. I asked the teacher what his name is and he said “I’m not a teacher. I’m the principal, Mr. Payne.” I introduced myself and asked Mr. Payne if I could ask him a few questions. He agreed.

MA: Have any of the students come to you with an issue that they may have happened in class that led to problems outside?
Payne: Yes, all my students have come to me for all their problems.

MA: Do you make it clear to all your students that they can come to you if they are having a problem?
Payne: Yes, anyone can come to me and we can figure a way to stop all problems.

MA: How did you handle the problem?
Payne: I would try to discuss the problem with that person and find out what happened and the find a punishment, if necessary.

MA: if the issue carries on outside of school, how would you handle it?
Payne: I would grab everyone that was involved and figure out a punishment. But I have a rule for that. If it happens outside, I would handle it like it happened in here.

I then got to talk to a teacher on Payne’s staff. Mrs. Khan took time to answer my questions:

MA: Have any of the students come to you with an issue that they may have happened in class that led to problems outside?
Khan: Yes, I would talk to them and if they talk to me, whatever they were planning, it didn’t happen.

MA: Do you make it clear to all your students that they can come to you if they are having a problem?
Khan: Yes. I would to talk to them and resolve the problem as best as I can.

MA: How did you handle the problem?
Khan: I would give them an opportunity to come and talk to me and talk about the problem.

MA: If the issue carries on outside of school, how would you handle it?
Khan: Because I work for the district, I have to follow there rules on problem solving but I would still listen to the problem.

The students and the teachers did agree that school should be a safe place and their students should be able to come to the teachers, principal or the security at the school for help.

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