Debate Over Bell's Death Is A Lesson For Students
While the tension surrounding the police shooting of Far Rockaway resident Sean Bell continued to mount this week his death was used at one local school to illustrate the importance of conflict resolution and ending bigotry.
Student members of a peer mediation and conflict resolution group met with City Councilman James Sanders Jr. and representatives from the Anti- Defamation League at Beach Channel High School Monday to discuss a new program aimed at creating a culture of respect and challenging bigotry among students. The program is called "No Place for Hate," and it's being rolled out in 21 schools citywide.
Sanders began the dialogue by asking students where they see themselves in 10 years, but the discussion quickly turned to Bell.
"On one side a call for justice," said Sanders, who has met with Bell's family and stood in a City Hall press conferences after the shooting. "On the other side the police have a story too.
The students took it from there.
"I don't understand why they would shoot 50 times if [Bell] wasn't shooting," said one female student. A male student countered by suggesting the flurry of bullets were fired in just a few seconds. Sanders played equal part moderator and devil's advocate, and the students were both engaged and respectful of one another's viewpoints as their discussion continued, eventually segueing to other law enforcement issues such as terrorism and profiling.
The councilman then turned the floor over to representatives from the Anti-Defamation League who detailed No Place for Hate. Robert Smith, a social studies teacher who leads the school group, will soon receive a guide on organizing school activities like poster contests and info and special speaker sessions. The group members will be responsible for getting the word out to other students.
Dr. David Morris, BCHS principal, watched over the presentation and later spoke about the students' goals. "Our school is a little community," he said. "Respect can expand beyond the school; kids can teach adults."