This Just In: March 26 - April 2 | This Just In | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

School of Hard Knocks

Summary: A special "Target 11" report on the threat posed by public-school students. Reporter: Karen Welles, WPXI Channel 11 Airtime: 2 minutes, 34 seconds on March 16 Visuals: * Inside the bustling hallways of Woodland Hills High School, and outside a few area schools where assaults against staff were reported. Highlights: * When Welles begins, "From November through January, kids have been hauled into court for assaulting nearly three dozen teachers and other school staff members on the job in Allegheny County." * When a teacher -- shown in darkened profile to conceal his identity -- says, "Most of the assaults that I am seeing are the byproduct of rage." * When Welles tells us that "Jack" has "been a teacher for more than 30 years, and has been assaulted himself several times. ... [Once, a] punch landed on his shoulder." * When "Jack" recounts the incident: "I had to use a restraint and bring him down onto the ground." Welles asks, "So you basically tackled him?" He responds, "That's what teachers these days are trained to do ... If I can get a kid down on the floor, then I have an upper hand." * When Welles says, "Officials say last year in the Woodland Hills School District alone, more than 60 teachers were injured breaking up fights." * When Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala intones: "Some of the most dangerous people in our community happen to be 15 to 17 years old." * When Welles assures, "A special court docket just for students who commit assault is working, giving teachers input as to how to punish the students." Later she adds, "But there are cases where violent kids will be locked up." * When Zappala confirms, "We're getting appropriate results, but we're getting the message to these kids also, that ... if you want to conduct yourself like a criminal ... I will treat them like a criminal." What We Learned: You can really fill 2 minutes and 34 seconds with a lot of hot, empty air. Unanswered Question: Is it sweeps month? Am I missing something? News Value: 1. Not impressed, not worried. It is ironic, though, considering that Zappala's brother has been in the headlines for running a juvenile-detention facility that received kids from Eastern Pennsylvania judges who were on the take. Also -- "some" of our most dangerous citizens are in their 20s and 30s. Could we get some perspective here? As in, how many kids are enrolled in Allegheny County schools? Is this problem across all school districts, or just a few? Welles tells us a "special docket" is working (never mind exactly how), so why the alarm?

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