May 16, 2003
For successfully teaching character education and violence prevention, Garfield Elementary School, Hill Classical Middle School and the Long Beach Unified School District’s unique new pilot Student Support Services Intervention Team recently earned commendations from the Long Beach Human Relations Commission.
The Commission presented the winners with certificates recognizing their outstanding work. The three honorees exemplify a districtwide commitment to human relations, said Bobbie Smith, president of the Board of Education. She described to the Commission the many ways local schools are teaching students to respect one another.
"We stand firmly against harassment," Smith said. "We do not tolerate hostile acts. A good education is something that no one can take away from you. It’s a gift that lasts a lifetime. We must not allow hatred, intolerance or violence to deny any child that precious gift."
At Garfield, fifth graders serve as conflict managers on the playground. They receive classroom instruction from counselors on ways to resolve conflict peacefully. The school holds a Lunch Bunch with a selected group of students who discuss safety and behavior concerns with the assistant principal. Garfield rewards students’ character and behavior with assemblies, field trips and incentives.
Hill Middle School now has a waiting list of hundreds of students to enroll this fall, a dramatic improvement. Hill attributes its success to a rigorous classical curriculum, high standards of dress and activities that improve behavior. Hill provides incentives for good character and community service. Teachers blend lessons about character into English, history and other courses. P.E. teachers improve sportsmanship by teaching students to evaluate their behavior. The school has increased adult supervision throughout the day and offers organized sports during lunch so students can burn off excess energy without fights. At Hill, the number of fights during the past three years has dropped 72 percent.
The Student Support Services Intervention Team is staffed by 12 school district psychologists, behavior specialists, court liaisons, attendance specialists and others. Since January, the Intervention Team upon request has responded daily to conflicts at schools. Team members arrive in pairs at any school where needed, helping to bring peaceful resolution to conflict. Team members also visit students and parents at home and in the community. They possess extensive knowledge of Cambodian, African American, Hispanic, Samoan and other communities in the district. They steer students away from gangs. The team also provides mental health support to struggling students and families, including referrals to community services.