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Security: News


Self-defense in Texas

For years, a fight was a fight in schools, and every student involved was guilty. But a new Texas law requires school districts to determine if students can claim self-defense and to include that policy in student conduct guidelines for this school year. Some districts, such as Dallas, say self-defense is not an excuse, and they won't change their policy.

But McKenney school officials say administrators will consider student explanations of self-defense when it comes to a fight or assault cases. McKinney administrators who find self-defense pleas acceptable would determine a student's fate based on the facts of the case, according to Ted Moore, deputy superintendent of McKinney schools.

McKinney defines self-defense as "using force against another when... a person reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect himself or herself." The student claiming self-defense might receive a lesser punishment or no punishment.

The percentage of students being victimized at school has declined in the last few years. Between 1995 and 2001, the percentage of students who reported being victims of crime decreased from 10% to 6%. However, the prevalence of other problem behavior at school has increased. For example, in 2001, 8% of students reported being bullied, up from 5% in 1999. Source: National Center for Education Statistics,

Slowing Down Speeders

Stone Lake Elementary School, as well as three other schools, in the Elk Grove Unified School District in California, has launched a student valet program this fall to slow down motorists around schools and in school parking lots, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Traffic safety experts say they can control gridlock outside schools, where hordes of parents and buses drop off youngsters, by educating drivers about road safety, designing schools with better traffic patterns and enforcing speed limits and parking laws. Adult crossing guards and a portable radar sign showing how fast drivers are traveling are other good safety measures for the morning and afternoon rush.

Nationwide, about 800 children traveling to and from school are killed each year in motor vehicle crashes and another 152,000 are injured, according to the National Academies' Transportation Research Board. And a 2000 survey by the National Safe Kids campaign found that almost 71 percent of motorists in the Sacramento area drove faster than the posted speed limit in school zones, compared with 65 percent of drivers nationwide.

Atlantic City Bets on Transparent Backpacks and ID Cards

When Atlantic City High School in New Jersey was recently labeled "persistently dangerous" under No Child Left Behind, two new policies were born: see-through backpacks and student ID cards with magnetic strips.

According to published news reports, the school board approved the new security measures last summer. The district is to have card-reading machines, which are to be set up at each entrance and metal detector, where students will have to swipe their cards upon entering. If a student is found to have a weapon or contraband, authorities will know where and when the student entered the school--and which security guard failed to find the contraband. And if a suspended student swipes his or her card, the machine alerts the guard.