One of the best ways to reach the youth is through the youth.
Thats at least one approach the Bibb County school system is using in an attempt to curb discipline problems. The districts Discipline Task Force Committee held its second meeting Thursday at the Welcome Center to discuss ways to improve conditions for students and teachers.
Edward Judie, deputy superintendent for student affairs, brought in a group called Fed-Up 4 U, an Atlanta-based anti-bullying/anti-gang youth organization.
Judie said the new organization, whose members mostly speak at Atlanta area high schools, was referred to him by a radio station employee. They came in and didnt ask for anything, Judie said. They said they wanted to tell their stories.
Judie gave the group a trial run at Southwest High School a couple of weeks ago and, based on the positive response, the organization has more speaking engagements at other Bibb County high schools in the coming weeks.
Its real to students, said Eddie McCloud, assistant principal at Southwest about the organization. Sharing their stories with kids ... our kids were motivated.
McCloud said the event went so well at his school, Fed-Up 4 U will be attending Southwests senior night.
Its important to have young adults teach youth, said James Cooper, founder of the group. The four members of the organization share their stories with students with the hopes of letting them know that they can overcome any obstacle.
Cooper shares with students his life as a gang member growing up in the New Jersey area making nearly $1 million a day. He was featured on BETs American Gangster series.
When they (students) hear that, theyre like, yeah, yeah, yeah, but I have to tell them the next part, Cooper said. I did nine and a half years in federal prison.
Coopers son, Jaquan, an aspiring rapper who goes by the name Tropakana, is also a member of Fed-Up 4 U. He shares with students how he grew up most of his life without his father.
I got to know my father while he was in prison, he said. When I was in elementary school, I thought everyones father was in prison and sold drugs because nobody told me different.
Group member Kellie Burke, an aspiring singer who goes by the name K-Star, was an A student. But at home, she was abused.
My brother got the worst of it, she said. Teachers didnt know what we were going through.
Before Fed-Up 4 U talked to the discipline committee, the nearly one dozen teachers, administrators and parents talked about the difficulty in dealing with students coming from troubled homes.
For seven, eight hours, our kids are coming to school broken and dysfunctional, said Terrell Smith, a Bibb schools hearing officer.
One parent suggested, We hire our teachers to teach, not be psychologists. ... Teachers have enough to do.
That comment didnt go over very well.
Were not saying you have to be a psychologist or give a diagnosis, Smith responded. But you have to care and if you care, youre not going to talk (to students) a certain way, he said, adding that there are numerous cases in which frustrated teachers and administrators are using profanity when talking to troubled students, and the students get punished for retaliating.
Charlene Curry, assistant principal at Howard High School, agreed.
You dont have to be a psychologist to know children, she said, but you have to care about them and children know if you dont care.
To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.