School Crisis

School Crisis (1987)
Duration: 00:28:18

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Themes: Education and Families | Leadership | Urban Challenges |

Guests: Teola Canty, George Vaughn, Arthur Jefferson
Host : Ed Gordon
Producer : Ed Gordon, Trudy Gallant

Summary: This program, broadcast live in the spring of 1987, was organized by WTVS as a public forum in response to the fatal shooting of a student at a Detroit high school. The panel discussion, led by host Ed Gordon, with Detroit Schools Superintendent Dr. Arthur Jefferson, school board member George Vaughn, and PTA President Teola Canty, illuminates the struggle of a major city to come to grips with violence in its schools and broader community.

The program outlines the efforts of the school district's administration to respond to the shooting, including a series of assemblies for students and parents. The panel points to the range of efforts to involve parents with the schools, including the signing of a "Parent Commitment Pledge." The program explores the difficulty - and importance - of promoting parental involvement. In addition, school officials discuss a recently-installed telephone hot line that students or parents could call to report the presence of a weapon in a school.

The program reveals the complexities that the schools face when dealing with the issue of violence in the schools. At the time, the city's schools had not begun using metal detectors at student entrances. The panelists tackle the heated issue of the possibility of violating student's constitutional rights if metal detectors were installed.

School officials also note other thorny policy issues, particularly the relationship between the school district and the city's police department. Although Jefferson pledges to work closely with the city's mayor and police department, both he and Vaughn emphasize the necessity of the school board and administration taking responsibility for the safety of the schools.

Both Jefferson and Vaughn expressed concern about the police taking too large a role. The discussion highlights the territorial disputes between school officials and the city government, as well as genuine philosophical concerns about the influence of a large police presence in the schools.

It is valuable to note the way participants in the discussion connect the problem of violence in the schools to circumstances in the broader community. Jefferson says that the problems in the schools must be addressed in the context of rising problems of violence throughout the city, while Gordon notes that "this is a small portion of the total chaos that is going on in our community."

Seen as a whole, the program gives a snapshot of a community struggling to deal with rising levels of violence at a pivotal time in the city's history - a time when drug-related crime was increasing and Detroit was earning its reputation as the nation's murder capital.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 2, File 12, School Strike – September 14, 1987
Box 2, File 16, School Board Recall – October 26, 1987