I was biking around Halifax today and noticed this sign outside the King’s View Academy which is a private school beside a major throughfare road into the downtown and is about two blocks from a Public School, Oxford School. The two schools may not be in heated competition for students as there is only a two year overlap in their respective services. The Oxford public school serves children from preschool to grade 9 while the Kingsview academy serves grades 7 through 12.
Anyway the sign was striking for two main reasons. Firstly, public schools, especially high schools (the particular setting King’s View is trying to pinch students from) are often portrayed in the media as being scary places. I tried to find reliable data measuring the extent of “safety in public schools” but did not have any luck. I did however find this graph that may help to explain why some feel public schools are hotbeds of bedlam: The highest crime rate for accused people occurs between the ages of 16-19. I stress that this is a chart of people ACCUSED of crime. Statistics on convictions where not categorized with the list of the accused.
This could be a result of agist accusers, or a final rush to the dark side before the protection of being a minor is forever lost. Who knows. One thing that is CLEAR is that the crime rate in general and for youths is dropping, continuosly.
Police reported that nearly 153,000 youth aged 12 to 17 were accused of a crime in 2010, almost 15,000 fewer than the previous year. The youth crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime committed by youth, declined by 7%.
(Statistics Canada, 2010)
The second reason this sign got my attention is because I had a macabre sort of “A-HA!” moment. If the private school is using the perceived threat of the public school environment to attract new members then libraries could potentially do the same.
Of course public libraries should NOT use this tactic… rather the opposite that libraries and public schools should form respectful relationships. This is not to say that public libraries can’t use the perception of high schools as dangerous and libraries as safe spots to their advantage. If we can convince the bullied, the strugglers, the bored, etc. to hang out in libraries we can create a positive feedback loop and help schools address issues they may not be aware of or help them deal with issues they are already working with. The presence of homework centers for teens in public libraries is an example of how this is already happening. Check out this article to get ideas on how to start or improve a homework center in your library:
Brannon, S., & Hildreth, W. (January 01, 2011). Teen Homework Centers – Minimum Resources for Most Budgets. Texas Library Journal, 87, 1, 19-25.
What the King’s View sign impressed upon me was the reality that librarians and public school officials need to work together to a) decrease the perceived threat of public school attendance and b) share the social responsibility of teaching, guiding, and entertaining students. One way this can be done is something I’ve been reading a lot about lately; the Co-hosting of events between schools and libraries. If a school production (play, musical, art exhibit, spoken word, science fair, etc) where to be hosted at a local public library the burden of organizing and staffing the event can be shared between librarians and public school officials. As well, it allows patrons who have no previous connection to public schools and their populations to see tweens and teenagers participating positively in their lives and communities.
I know it’s one thing to come up with an idea, but an entirely different matter bringing that idea to fruition in reality. However, in a world where schools are adopting the attack ad mentality I think it’s important to at least think about solutions.