STOP the Violence

Published 9:03 pm Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Selma City Schools are taking a proactive approach to prove that acts of violence will not be tolerated in schools.

Safe and Drug Free Schools Coordinator Joslyn Reddick, the Selma City Schools and the Selma Police Department have decided to work to change the mindset of students, in hopes of changing the actions, while also informing peers and teachers of the signs of violent or gang related-behaviors.

“We can’t stop it unless we stop it together,” Reddick said.

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Titled STOP (Schools Totally Optimizing Prevention) the Violence Campaign, it is designed to create a place where youth can live, learn and play in a safe and drug free community.

After the death of 16-year-old Selma High School student Joshua Jackson on Feb. 28, Reddick and the Selma Police Department decided there needed to be an immediate and active force of change.

“It impacted a lot of students,” Reddick said.

Events such as this have created small clusters of conversations, but Reddick would like to see people throughout Selma discussing means to reduce this violence.

“As we continue to talk about these things, we want to find more things to combat it,” Reddick said.

Currently, weekly slogans are read each day in schools. The slogan for this week is “Make the decision to choose and display the right attitude and behavior daily. Participating in violent behavior is a choice. Choose to walk away. Stop the violence.”

Police Chief William T. Riley III has spoken in elementary and middle schools about the scope of violent acts and the reverberations a death can have on the community, with the intention these talks will break the cycle of violence.

“What effects one will effect us all, especially with crime,” Riley said. “It’s an ugly cascade effect.”

Although he cannot define a specific number of gang-related incidents, he believes it does exist.

“You know it’s there, but you can’t truly quantify it,” Riley said. He says much of this must be read between the lines of the incident.

To encourage positive behaviors, Riley is planning to sponsor a pizza party each month for the class with the lowest amount of discipline referrals at a school. He will sponsor one school, but is looking for business, organizations or members of the community to sponsor other schools.

Also, from May 12-14, teachers and selected students will attend a Gang Awareness training with retired Detective Tony Avendorph, a program recently attended by District Attorney Michael Jackson.

Jackson then brought the training session to the attention of school officials.

Aimed at elementary and middle school students, the street gang training will inform peers and adult mentors in each school of certain behaviors, outfits or clothing colors gang members may exhibit, as well as to stop bullying and violent behaviors at young ages.

“We’ve had situations where some of these kids would not go to the bathroom all day because they’re afraid to go into the restroom,” Jackson said.

Ongoing issues such as this are problems the entire community must tackle, Jackson said.

Reddick is also working to have a STOP the Violence fair this fall when students start back to school.

“We are concerned about any crime on our campus,” said Selma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan. “We wanted to take any preventative step to increase awareness and to prevent violence in schools and our community.”

To sponsor a monthly pizza party at a school, contact Joslyn Reddick at 874-1611 for more information.