A message from
Superintendent Eva Joseph Oct. 14, 2006
All communities want their schools to be warm, welcoming places that are
true community centers. Asking students to pass through metal detectors
on their way into school, then, was no easy decision for the Albany
School District. They can seem like a public admission that we are
resorting to that last, reactive step in our battle against youth
But, as one parent said recently at a school safety forum, "I don't want
the schools to appear safe, I want them to be safe." I agree.
In recent weeks, we have seen school violence in local school districts
and in states such as Pennsylvania, Missouri and Colorado. We also
witnessed a serious incident in our own high school.
Whether we like it or not, the safety landscape has changed – not just
at Albany High School, but all across our country. As citizens, we’ve
become used to passing through metal detectors as we enter libraries,
airports, and government buildings. They are often seen as a necessary
security measure that, when used properly, are an extremely minor
inconvenience, not a major impediment to accomplishing one’s business at
any of these places.
So, when students enter Albany High School this coming Monday, they will
also walk through metal detectors.
Our students have been very cooperative as they have undergone random
searches with metal-detecting wands. We are confident they will continue
to be respectful, and most importantly, understanding of the fact that
our goal is the same as theirs and their parents – for them to learn and
grow in an environment that is as safe as possible.
To prepare our students and their families for this change, a letter
detailing expectations of students entering Albany High School was
mailed to their homes last week. In school, staff members spoke with
students and gave them cards explaining the new procedures.
Metal detectors, when used properly, can significantly reduce the
potential that weapons will be brought into a building. However, it
would be a mistake to assume they will be a cure-all for a complex
problem that demands a complex mix of solutions.
The good news is that the Albany City School District has a wealth of
programs and initiatives designed to address the root causes of youth
violence – and those programs are continually growing and improving.
We’ve added a fourth lunch period this year to reduce the numbers of
students in the cafeteria at one time and a wall was removed to ensure
improved monitoring of students and less congestion. We also use
security cameras to better monitor activities -- both inside and outside
our schools. This comes on the heels of improved hallway patterns
initiated last spring.
We employ well-trained school security and resource officers, uniformed
hall monitors, social workers and guidance counselors who know our kids
well and work with them daily to solve problems in constructive ways. We
offer character education, and all Albany City schools are working with
students, parents and staff to design “Respect Campaigns” this year to
promote the principles of nonviolence.
At Albany High School, we continue to offer dozens of clubs and
activities that give our youth a sense of belonging and accomplishment.
Students can choose from social justice and service organizations to
special interest clubs such as chess and poetry to student groups that
will travel to Rome and Greece this year.
We have engaged the National Urban Alliance in an effort to increase
student achievement through culturally-responsive classrooms and our
continual quest for excellence in teaching. After all, learning is our
primary mission, and we continue to aggressively work toward ensuring
all students have the skills to succeed.
Like all schools in our region, when an occasional situation warrants a
lockdown procedure, we will continue to implement a swift and decisive
response on behalf of the safety of students and staff. But, it is far
from chaos in our schools. For example, the lockdown on September 22nd
lasted all of 45 minutes before teaching and learning was back in full
Lastly we will continue to look for ways to partner with parents and
community-based programs that can help us work together to effectively
combat the societal problems of gangs, drugs, violence and poverty.
The real answer to the problem of youth violence is not as simple as
metal detectors. They are one important element in a complex web of
resources, programs and approaches we currently employ and will continue
to investigate to strengthen safety in our schools.
The answer to the challenge we face is giving students a sense of
respect, confidence and achievement so they can grow into the smart,
able people we adults know they are.