Understanding teen violence; schools seen as a vital entry point

Aimed at problem solving, enhancing self-image

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Editor’s note: Matt Orlando is a member of the Chandler City Council, as well as a community activist with many years of involvement in a wide range of programs and services. We felt his remarks were especially relevant to recent occurrences in area cities.

By Matt Orlando

The East Valley has witnessed graphic accounts of teen violence and rallied for justice to hold those involved accountable. We’re struggling to understand the behavior and seeking answers to prevent teen violence in the future. Communities have come together to discuss, listen and take action that keeps our kids safe.

We recognize teen violence isn’t defined by geographic, cultural, economic and social boundaries. Teens and families of all backgrounds are being affected. There are several proactive actions that we’re taking in West Chandler and other nearby areas to keep our community safe. We’re voting on city ordinances this month that would equip the Chandler police with tools to address unruly gatherings of minors through education and enforcement, including measures that would prohibit the sale and possession of brass knuckles by minors.

Schools are essential places to connect with students. Last year, we renewed agreements with Kyrene, Chandler and Mesa school districts for Chandler police to provide a school resource officer dedicated to each public middle school and high school campus in Chandler. These officers serve an essential role to engage students, parents, teachers and administrators. We’re leveraging those opportunities to prevent and address teen violence. We’ve also allocated $147,000 for a program to expand the presence of Chandler police in elementary schools.

The School Education Engagement program is designed specifically for 6th grade students to provide tools and knowledge to navigate challenges of social media, drugs and peer pressure. Hopefully, early intervention can help these future teens safeguard their potential and make informed choices. Two seasoned, retired law enforcement officers are spearheading this program for Chandler Police. They are delivering a four-week curriculum approved by the Arizona Department of Education that addresses leadership, respect, substance abuse and cyber-dilemmas.

The goal of the program is to promote problem-solving skills and a positive self-image through student’s character development. By encouraging respect of people, authority, laws and rules, the focus is to develop responsible future teens and discourage delinquent behavior. Eight elementary schools in the Chandler Unified School District are participating in the program this spring. We aim to expand this program to other elementary schools and districts serving West Chandler and other cities’ students in the coming school year.

Programs involving police and schools reinforce and supplement lessons learned in the home. It’s vital that parents and family members engage in the lives of our teens and pre-teens. We must acknowledge the unique challenges our kids face in a world that is constantly connected, comparing and commenting. Perhaps we can begin by disconnecting from things that pull our attention away and taking time to reconnect with our kids. Listen and observe. It’s an investment of time that no one will regret. 



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