Violence is elementary


Kim Lipscomb believed things were finally looking up for her daughter after she successfully lobbied the school district to transfer the youngster from James Alcorn Elementary School.

But then second-grader Vennessha Lipscomb wound up at Delaplaine McDaniel Elementary.

During the student’s first full day of school last Monday, her mother said, two other youths jumped Vennessha for no other reason than "she is new here."

The next day, news came out that McDaniel, 22nd and Moore streets, had more reported student assaults this year — more than 20 to date — than any elementary school in the School District of Philadelphia.

Included on the school’s rap sheet is a kindergartner who punched a seven-months-pregnant teacher in the abdomen and a third-grader who whacked a teacher in the head with a broom.

The child that punched the pregnant teacher has been removed from the class because of other discipline problems since the incident, said Paul Jackson, school district spokesperson. The second student was suspended for two days.

"I did not know any of these things were going on at this school," said Lipscomb, who explained she wanted her daughter transferred from Alcorn, 32nd and Dickinson streets, because of violent incidents there and what she perceived as the staff’s reluctance to address the problems.

Lipscomb feels the district should open alternative schools for violent students at the elementary level, similar to ones it has for older youths who violate the new zero-tolerance violence policy. She also has advised her daughter to keep to herself to avoid more attacks.

"But you know you don’t have to look for trouble," Lipscomb said. "Trouble will find you."

In January, the school district will announce several initiatives, some that specifically will address the issue of violence among young students.

One of these programs is the Saturday Morning Alternative Reach and Teach. It reportedly will be an eight-week program for students from elementary through high school and their parents. SMART will provide students with violent histories with counseling and character-building exercises. The adults, who will be required to attend three sessions, will sit in on parenting classes.

Also for parents, the district reportedly is working on creating a parent-training academy, similar to the one school district CEO Paul Vallas instituted while he led the Chicago school district.

Teachers, particularly those at the most violent schools, also will begin receiving additional training in January on how to handle classroom misbehavior.

And finally, the district will enact a program for pregnant teens called Cradle to the Classroom that will partner mothers-to-be with a mentor who will teach them parenting skills.

Lafayette Marshall, father of McDaniel kindergartner Christian Drummond, said it is a relief to see the district attempting to address the problems at his son’s school.

The district sent a team of evaluators to McDaniel last week, Jackson said. The results of their visit were not available at press time.

"They need all the help they can get," said Marshall. "They can’t sweep this under the rug and forget about it."

Marshall, who walks his son to and from school every day, heard about the problems at McDaniel secondhand. He said Christian has never discussed any incidents with him.

"I thought this school was a good school," he said, but after hearing the news, added, "I don’t really want my kids to go here anymore. It is a shame. Kids should not go through that. When you bring your kids to school, they are supposed to learn."

McDaniel previously received attention because of a violent incident that occurred outside the school.

In April 2001, a stray bullet grazed the right leg of 6-year-old student Aniyah Trippet as she played with her classmate on the playground.

The youngster complained of a pain in her leg, which doctors later discovered was from a 9 mm bullet that had passed through her calf.

A media circus ensued and frantic parents rushed to the school to pick up their children when they heard the news. Police knew of no motive for the shooting and never arrested any suspects related to the case.

School officials and politicians reacted by hosting a closed-door session for parents. There are 800 students at McDaniel, but only 125 parents showed up for the meeting.