School Violence; It happens in Suburbia Too!
In wake of all of the violence going on, including at our children’s schools, I was interested in doing a photo story on it. I ran into some obstacles, that are finally being cleared out of the way in order for me to complete the story.
This idea sprung from the overwhelming amounts of school violence in the news. I never thought it would hit close to home when last year a women was shot and killed by her estranged “husband” (speculation is not clear whether they were legally married or not) in the school parking lot at the high school I attended nearly a decade ago. I still live in the area, and had hoped that my two boys would continue my husbands and my legacies at our Alma Mater in our home town. It became a further compounded story I wanted to chase when I started noticing the violence leaking into our very suburbia, suburban neighborhood in the way out skirts of town, where we live. I have chased MANY children from my property engaging in acts of violence on one another, ranging from yelling and arguing, to cussing one another out, and just recently one child beating the living tar out of another child.
Being a photojournalist, to tell the accurate story, there needs to be a degree of research done. Searching national databases online, and utilizing data bases available to me through my Press Photographers associations and my college where I am finishing my degree up at, I quickly found some very alarming statistics. The next step in researching though is putting foot to pavement. I didn’t want my story to be the cliche’ look what happens in big inner city schools, we all know those stories all too well. I wanted my story to show that those schools are not the ONLY ones affected by school bullying. I wanted suburbia schools. So I contacted schools in Surprise, Goodyear, Tolleson, Avondale, west Glendale, and West Peoria. This is where I encountered my first obstacles that almost caused me to say never mind.
In a day and age where people fear being exploited, I can understand, to a degree, the hesitation people had when I called these schools and paid them a visit to get information, and permission to photograph any school violence that I may see before, during and after school. Not only did I get the preverbal run around, phone transfer after phone transfer (always to the wrong person and department), but I got hung up on, I got the, “oh we don’t have any school violence, it’s not permitted here.” As well as the, “We don’t condone school violence, and we take appropriate action when and if needed. We aren’t interested in having our students exploited.”
Now, I know my head can be a riddled mess, and sometimes I’m not so elegantly disposed in the composition of my wording on the fly, so I sat down and constructed a dialog I could easily read as I called these schools back again, that didn’t come off as me wanting to exploit them, their schools, or their children. A short simple statement, that basically stated that I just wanted to show America that school violence can happen anywhere, any time, and to any one, not just inner city schools, and the importance of not bullying and always telling a grown up about seeing bullying occurring.
My aim is NOT to exploit these schools, nor their staff, nor their students. My aim is simply to show that inner cities are not the only ones plagued by this. That we as parents, and adults have a say as to what goes on, and that we can prevent this by teaching our children about the consequences of bullying that turns violent all too often. I think once I showed them that my intention was more of a prevention of violent outbreaks in schools all too close to home, they were a little more receptive to the idea.
I have been now granted access to some of these schools to get the story and photograph these instances. I start tomorrow! Ekk! Yep, one school wants me there tomorrow during their D.A.R.E. assembly! Now correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program phased out in the late 90’s? I’m glad and hopeful to see that SOME schools have phased it back in. The school’s definitely NEED it!
So, wish me luck this week and next as I embark on this story that I have been chasing! I look forward to bringing the story to life via images here shortly.
If you suspect your child, or children at your child’s school are being bullied, please contact some National Organizations for help: (See below)
Thank you so much, and please be sure to check back at the end of two weeks when this project and story comes to life.