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Move beyond the slogans to focus on what works

Monday, Jun 29, 2020

* Quality managers achieve quality results, is I think the best way to sum up Mark Brown’s profile of Liz Dozier, who turned around Fenger Academy High School

Dozier inherited a bad situation at Fenger, which is located in Roseland, with daily brawls involving 50 to 60 students. In the second week of school, one of her students, Derrion Albert, was clubbed to death in a melee on his way home.

Police made 300 arrests at Fenger in her first year there.

What eventually turned around those problems, Dozier believes, was building relationships with students, not making arrests.

Dozier and her Fenger staff emphasized creating a school more attuned to the emotional needs of its students than to policing them. That required understanding why students were acting out.

Instead of relying on police to enforce discipline, they instituted restorative justice practices, which focus on repairing harm rather than applying punishment, and held peace circles to defuse conflicts. They provided grief counseling and anger-management training to students and created trauma groups to help deal with emotional baggage they brought to school from home.

It might sound like mumbo-jumbo, but these methods work well with young people.

By the time I visited Fenger a few years later, I encountered a warm, friendly atmosphere and a more relaxed student body.

After her first year at Fenger, Dozier moved to replace the police officers assigned to the school with new ones more attuned to her philosophy. She has only good things to say about the work of that second set of school resource officers.

But she thinks her students would have been better off with more counselors, social workers or therapists instead. Security guards from the neighborhood trained in de-escalation techniques are just as effective in providing school security in most situations, she says, and can call in police in extreme circumstances.

Go read the whole thing. Mark Brown proved once again why he’s the best newspaper columnist in Chicago by leaps and bounds.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

4 Comments »
  1. - Annonin' - Monday, Jun 29, 20 @ 1:05 pm:

    Not sure about best, but it was a very interesting piece that needed a little more detail. Replacing CPD officers slipped by a little too quick. While times may have changed these resource officer spots were generally filled by non working officers too young to retire and too uninspiring to be detectives. Clearly it is worth a very close examination. Certainly the students will do better with counselors — if they engaged and not bust outs.
    BTW the columnist does have an excellent last name. TeeHee


  2. - filmmaker prof - Monday, Jun 29, 20 @ 2:24 pm:

    I’ve always favored Neil Steinberg and Rick Telander a bit more, but Brown is excellent just the same.


  3. - Excitable Boy - Monday, Jun 29, 20 @ 2:59 pm:

    Pretty powerful piece that directly counters the fear mongering going on about diminishing the role of police. Police should be the last option, not the first.


  4. - 17% Solution - Monday, Jun 29, 20 @ 3:25 pm:

    I knew someone with a kindergartener who went to a CPS school. Last year the six year old girl had a tantrum and the principal threatened to have her taken by the police.
    Too bad Dozier isn’t in the business of teaching principals.


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