Anti-violence program presented at East St. John

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 21, 2001


RESERVE – Exactly a week after a boy in a neighboring parish allegedly shot and killed his father and step-mother, East St. John High School in Reserve participated in something positive that trumpeted an anti-violence message in the form of a live band, freebies for students and “open mic” time. Rage Against Destruction, an anti-violence high school assembly program that tours nationwide, couldn’t have come at a better time. In the wake of a local terrible act of violence and in an era where television news telecasts scenes of teen-age crime and malice, the assembly proved a hope-inspiring event for St. John teen-agers. The non-profit program is funded by charitable contributions, and began touring New Orleans area schools April 2, finishing with East St. John April 12. The program, which started in 1997 and is directed by Tom Woodcock, presents an anti-violence message through a concert-style show that teen-agers can relate to. Focusing on the positive things that teen-agers can do to help one another, rather than focusing on the negative statistics, the program sends a message of unity and encourages students to take a stand against the trend of violence. After sending out invitational packets to schools in targeted cities such as New Orleans, the first 10 schools to respond were booked for the presentation. East St. John was one of them. In the 45-minute production, students received giveaway items like T-shirts, gift certificates, compact disc players and other items and listened to a speaker. They also saw a live band perform and were encouraged to voice their concerns. According to East St. John Principal Debra Schum, the school found out about the program during the summer. One of East St. John’s teachers attended a conference, where she learned about Rage Against Destruction. They booked the event in August for the April presentation. “I was very impressed. The students liked it very much. The entire message was very anti-violence,” said Schum. She added that there were two group sessions prior to the assembly in which peer administrators discussed what they thought were the biggest concerns for students today. Schum said that the students were concerned with making everyone consistent in following rules. “Everybody wants to feel safe at school. Students of today also want to let adults know that they are not as bad as they think they are,” she said. “They do care.” According to Schum, the students expressed concern about parent involvement, stating that peace starts in the home. One student even said that religion needs to return to the schools. “The students were highly impressed with the program,” Schum said, adding that she thinks it made a positive impact on them. Schum said that at East St. John they try to encourage students that physical violence is not a solution to any problem. They have a conflict resolution program where trained student peer mediators report kids who aren’t getting along. The kids are set up with the mediator and an adult to talk the problems out. One student talks to the mediator about what he or she thinks the problem is, then the other one tells his or her side of the story. Then they try to work it out. “Most of the time it works. It does solve a lot of arguments. If it doesn’t work, then they are sent to the assistant principal or me,” said Schum. “In most cases, it helps when people want to be helped. We’re a small reflection of what happens in the community.” She added that the assembly gave the students a chance to focus on positive ways to handle violence. “It was truly an inspiration for the students,” she said.