Don Shomette

People are the Prize

What Do You See Wednesday (Review & Discussion) 29 Jan 2014

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Let’s review and discuss the last, “What Do You See Wednesday from 29 Jan 2014.

First, here’s the picture:


Here is what others had to say:

Bettye Myers MS SRO (@BMMSSRO): If the only people allowed in the room during the allotted time, there is reduced supervision or fear that teens may be caught doing something they should not.  Also an adult could enter and take advantage of a teen inside.

Here are my comments:

Thanks for the comment, Bettye!  You’re right on.

I’ve been dying to talk about this one.  I’m going to first address the safety concerns and then briefly comment on the ‘non-safety’ aspects.

First of all, there is nothing good in this practice—nothing.  But why is it bad for safety?

1. Lack of Supervision:
When looking for a library book, a person can’t help but see, smell, hear, and feel (intuition) what’s happening around them.  In reducing violence and unwanted behaviors, we utilize this simple (and free!) principle to help make a place safer.  That’s part of what I do.  I train police officers and school folks how to ‘tweak’ the environment to make kids safer.  It just makes great sense.  If people are going to use the space anyway, why don’t we make it easier for them to spot danger and therefore by default add them to our safety team?  By doing this, now instead of a few people watching for danger we’ve made it possible for many to see, smell, hear, and feel potential danger.

How great is that?

The library has done just the opposite.  By isolating the teens, they’ve made it impossible for adults who are using the library to help out.  It would be like having 25 cameras (if that’s the number of adults who browse through the area during the teen time) and instead of using the cameras to watch for danger, you shut them all off.

Of course, that’s a bad analogy.  Shutting out the adults is far worse than shutting off cameras because people are so much better than cameras.  There is no equal to a person–they are the greatest safety device.

You might be thinking that I’m advocating using adults to spy on the teens.  Not at all.  Just the opposite.  As adults we have an obligation to protect young people.  We don’t spy on teens, we protect teens and sometimes that means shielding them from adults as well as from each other.  But we can’t do that if we’re not allowed to be around them.

2. Reduced Ownership.
If a person feels that they have ownership in their environment they are more likely to care about it and therefore protect it.  The same goes for our schools, ball fields, rec centers, and other public buildings.  A teen zone drastically reduces ownership, it send the message to adults (a huge population at the library) that this is not your space so don’t worry about it.  And soon adults will do just that—not care about it.

When you separate a person from a space you separate their feelings of responsibility for the space.  No one cares what happens in the principal’s office because no one has any ownership in it but the principal.  Whereas, the teacher’s lounge is a shared space and most teachers feel a sense of ownership.  They may decorate it with flowers, clean it, and even meet there to celebrate special events.  It matters to them because it belongs to them—all of them.

Like our schools, the library should nurture a climate of inclusiveness and not one of exclusiveness.  That’s how you enhance climate, develop ownership, and make your schools safer.  The message should be, “This belongs to all of us so let’s all care about it.”

Any other approach is absolutely terrible for safety.

Now, my personal feelings.
It is a mistake to create a place where adults are not permitted to be with teens—regardless of the period of time—long or short.  It sends a terrible message and does nothing to enhance adult-teen relationships, which are in the best interest of the teens. Show me a teen who is healthy but has little adult contact, and I’ll show you an exception and certainly not the rule.  We must resist the notion that the teen years automatically equate into difficult times or comes with an entitlement to be difficult, isolated, or to receive special privileges.  The more we push our teens away or believe that separation from adults is what they need or is a necessary part of being a teen, the harder and not the easier we make their lives.

Author: Don Shomette

Don Shomette is a trainer, speaker, consultant, and owner of People are the Prize, a violence prevention company that helps people to prevent and survive a school attack. He has spent a lifetime working with police officers and principals and is consistently evaluated by those who attend his trainings as one of the best instructors ever. Don challenges, entertains, and helps school personnel to think of preventing violence in a new and positive way.

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