Remember the solution proposed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to reduce mass shootings like the one in Newtown, CT last December? “More Armed Guards” in America’s schools.
You wonder if the NRA has ever been inside a low income urban school and experienced the atmosphere of fear and tension that the presence of armed guards and metal detectors produces. Surely it is this atmosphere of omnipresent law enforcement that promotes the school-to-prison pipeline.
The new principal of an elementary school in Roxbury, MA, understood this, and he had a radically different idea.
Andrew Bott, the sixth principal in seven years at the failing Orchard Gardens School, got rid of the security guards at the school, and invested the money he saved into funding the arts.
Given the state of the school, there were a lot of raised eyebrows.
When the pilot school for K-8 opened in 2003, it came complete with art studios, a dance studio and a theater. However, problems with disruption and violence took over, and pretty soon the dance studio was turned into a storage area, and the school’s orchestra instruments were locked away.
No one was surprised when the school was ranked in the bottom five of Massachusetts public schools in 2010.
As NBC describes it:
In a school notorious for its lack of discipline, where backpacks were prohibited for fear the students would use them to carry weapons, Bott’s bold decision to replace the security guards with art teachers was met with skepticism by those who also questioned why he would choose to lead the troubled school.
“A lot of my colleagues really questioned the decision,” he said. “A lot of people actually would say to me, ‘You realize that Orchard Gardens is a career killer? You know, you don’t want to go to Orchard Gardens.’”
Three years later, Bott’s decision is paying off. Orchard Gardens, which serves a student population that’s 90 percent low income, has one of the fastest student improvement rates in the state. That’s because attendance rates have improved, behavior issues are down and academic achievement has jumped.
Oh, and the dance studio has returned, along with an artists’ studio. With so many arts programs being cut around the country, in favor of more time to prepare for English and math standardized tests, this principal’s decision is inspiring.
NBC reports on how eighth grader Keyvaughn Little feels:
“I’ve been more open, and I’ve expressed myself more than I would have before the arts have came.”
His grades have improved, too. Keyvaughn says it’s because of the teachers — and new confidence stemming from art class.
Andrew Bott’s courage makes me proud to be in the teaching profession. A lot of us became educators because we wanted to inspire a love of learning in kids, not because we wanted to have them do well in standardized tests, or live in fear of armed guards.
The NRA has not only proposed more armed guards in every school, but also having teachers carry concealed guns. In the Missouri Senate they are considering requiring that every first grader take the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program.”
Thank you, Mr. Bott, for reminding us what education should be about: educating the whole child to fulfill her/his potential in a gun-free environment.
What do you think?
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Photo Credit: NBC online video