Category: Community - Original Written by Jackie Berg
It happens all the time: Conversation turns into confrontation. Anger explodes. Punches are thrown … or worse, guns are fired. A violent crime is committed and the lives of victims, perpetrators, and of families and friends, are changed forever.
Uncontrolled anger is one element fueling the rising tide of homicide gripping Detroit and other cities. Experts say that understanding and dealing with anger can help individuals, their families, and ultimately entire communities make better decisions that can help stop violence and reduce crime.
“In order to address anger and the resulting crime, you have to examine what leads us to become angry….what causes us to choose anger over another option,” says Chuck Jackson. He is executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Starr Commonwealth in Albion, Mich., and CEO of Starr Vista in Detroit. Both organizations provide services to families and children.
Uncontrolled anger in adolescents and adults often stems from unmet needs earlier in life, he continued. “Part of what we are missing as a society is that often we are not meeting the basic developmental needs of our children. They have to feel confident that they can master challenges, have a place to belong, feel safe and secure, can give back to others and know that there are people who love and care about them. When this happens they have a better self-concept, are more grounded and anger becomes less of an option for them. They are better equipped to deal with all kinds of life situations.”
Anger can also come from experiencing trauma at any age. Many people have witnessed violence, seen people they love hurt, or been hurt themselves, especially in urban environments. If we lose someone, we feel pain. Where does that pain go?
“As a society we don’t do a good enough job of dealing with this,” said Jackson. “Part of where we all struggle, particularly as African Americans, is that we are not quick to go to therapy, either because we lack the resources, or because we just don’t think we need it. Then the sources of our anger are not being addressed. Couple that with the reality that we live in a society that is still oppressive and for many offers few options. All of this can lead to making poor choices from maladaptive behaviors such as resorting to violence, and to self-medication with drugs and alcohol. If you don’t have a strong self-concept, these can begin, consciously or subconsciously, to look like tangible options for easing your pain.”
So what are the alternatives for helping adolescents and adults address their anger and walk away from conflict? The answer for some can be found by learning techniques to control or manage their anger. Anger management teaches that while you cannot avoid stressful life events, you can learn how to feel about them and what to do about them.
Research suggests that managing anger not only benefits the participant, but the entire family — and ultimately communities. But part of the challenge is recognizing when help is needed. According to experts at Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn., in an article on their website, you should consider seeking help for anger issues:
• If you or a loved one’s anger seems out of control
• If it causes you to do things you regret
• If it hurts those around you
• If it is taking a toll on your personal relationships.
Eighteen-year-old Emmanuel attends school and works with other young people in his community, but that was not always so. After acting out as a young teen, he was remanded to the juvenile justice system and received residential treatment at Starr Commonwealth’s Albion campus.
“Emmanuel was angry about a lot of things,” said his mother, Gwen. She cited the death of his father when he was a baby. He was forced to compete for Gwen’s attention because of her at- home daycare business.
“He deeply resented the daycare because I had 15 to 30 kids that I took care of every day so he didn’t always get all the time and attention that he wanted,” said Gwen. “I had to explain that this was something that I had to do to provide for us.”
“[My son] was angry about a lot of thing, but he never really could talk about what was bothering him.”
Emmanuel turned his anger around with the help of the anger management program that was part of his treatment at Starr Commonwealth. In the program, healthy behavior is modeled by adults who can support the young adult by, among other things, encouraging and reinforcing appropriate behaviors.
Founded in Albion in 1913 and a national model for trauma response, Starr Commonwealth works toward creating a brighter future for Detroit’s young people and their families through early intervention programs and residential and private treatment programs. In 2012 it served over 600 young people in its anger management workshops.
Gwen saw firsthand the results for Emmanuel. He learned healthy ways to manage anger, triggers and decision making, and is moving forward with his life in positive, healthy ways.
“The counselor would keep me informed on how he was progressing,” says Gwen. “He did well in school, he was a leader. He started doing well at all the things that I saw in him and knew that he could do.”
“When he returned [from the program], we could talk about a lot of the things that were bothering him. Going through the program closed a gap for us and helped us establish a real line of communications.”
Taking action to learn how to control anger can have major impacts on individuals, their families and the entire community. Below is a list of agencies and resources that may be helpful:
Health Services resource list from
University of Michigan - Dearborn Website:
Wayne County Department of
Community Mental Health:
Oakland County Department of Community Mental Health:
Washtenaw County Department of Community Mental Health:
John Dingel VA Medical Center, Detroit:
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 11:05
Category: Community - Original Written by Melinda Clynes
Photo Credit: Marvin Shaouni
Can using restorative practices with students be the key to building community in Detroit? We think the idea has merit.
According to Henry McClendon, program officer at The Skillman Foundation, Detroit doesn’t have a crime problem; we have a relationship problem.
He believes that crime is the symptom, while broken relationships are the problem.
When crime happens, we treat the symptom. We ask what law was broken, who broke it, and what kind of punishment it deserves. It keeps victim and offender apart.
The same thing happens in schools. Students get in trouble, and they’re suspended or expelled. Once back at school, the perpetrator is still angry, the victim is still angry — or afraid. And the suspended student’s chance of graduating on time begins to buckle.
But what happens if, instead of using an adversarial approach, we deal with conflict using a restorative approach that McClendon believes is more solution focused — one that treats the problem?
The restorative process brings victim and offender together to acknowledge the harm that occurred, study its impact, and think through what needs to happen to make things right. This restores balance and justice and prevents harm from happening again.
“I’m not saying we don’t have any jails, and we don’t have any police officers,” says McClendon. But, “if all we do is come up with stricter laws — you know get tough on crime, zero tolerance — you can’t hire enough police and you can’t build enough jails to solve that problem.”
McClendon is an expert on restorative practices, which in its simplest form is a process that builds community and social coherence. He has regionally represented the International Institute for Restorative Practices and trained many local people on its merits
He is on a personal mission to see Detroit become the first large, urban restorative city in the country. One obvious place for that change to start is in schools.
Preventing, intercepting problems
At Plymouth Educational Center in Detroit, a charter school district made up of a K-8 school, a 9th grade academy, and a 10th to 12th grade high school, restorative practices are being fully implemented to help students and teachers get along, set boundaries and find support.
According to the center’s interim superintendent, Dr. Christopher Plum, opening “circles” start the morning. These circles give students a platform to check in with their classmates and teachers, talk about what’s on their minds, and share how they are feeling. The small amount of time spent on creating tighter relationships has benefits; students not only celebrate personal achievements with their peers, but also talk openly about struggles at home or elsewhere with support from their classmates and teacher.
The idea is this: with distractions aired and out of the way, students can better focus on learning. Teachers know what’s going on with their students, and that alone can lead to a different outcome for troubled students.
When conflicts do arise, they are treated in a restorative way so they become teachable moments that improve the culture of the classroom and the school, rather than diminishing it.
Since implementing the system three years ago, students at Plymouth have become more proactive, rather than reactive, with problems that arise. Before, notes Plum, “The dean of students wouldn’t know there was a problem until somebody’s nose got broken. This way, students are empowered to stay ahead of that stuff.”
McClendon shares the story of a Highland Park teacher who was trained in restorative practices. She had a class that was quickly spiraling out of control, so she created a circle and shared how the students’ behavior made her feel. She asked the students to answer a series of restorative questions, the last being what needed to happen to make things better.
The students came up with their own classroom guidelines. By using a fair process and engaging students in the decisions, discipline issues diminished.
At Detroit’s Osborn Academy, a teacher trained in restorative practices used the methodology to foster higher expectations. When grades came out, she called a circle and asked students what happened, how they felt about their grades, who was impacted by the grades, and how and what needed to be done to improve their grades by the end of the next semester.
The students answered the questions and then created their own individual plans for improvement. She went from chasing kids down to complete their work to students chasing her down for extra work.
Keeping kids in school
At the simplest level, restorative practices help more kids stay in school, keeping them off the street and out of the juvenile justice system and increasing the likelihood of graduating on time.
Research shows that if a child misses five to nine days of school, his or her chance of graduating on track drops to 63 percent; and that drops down to 41 percent at the 10-day mark. Since the purpose of school is to graduate kids on track and on time, suspension seriously blocks a child’s chance for academic success.
“If you’re kicking kids out, you are not helping them to graduate on time,” says McClendon. “You’re actually working against the very thing that you say you’re there to do.”
Monica Evans, a police officer with the Detroit Police Department, works to prevent youth violence and is a strong believer in restorative practices. She works with the hard-knocks students: gang members and students with destructive behaviors who have been identified as most likely to be expelled.
She says that because of zero tolerance policies, it’s been difficult getting administrators to buy into restorative practices. Yet, when they do, the results are astounding.
Evans worked with Osborn Schools and saw its suspensions drop from 340 to 14 in one school year using restorative practices. The school’s crime stats also decreased during the same period.
Keeping kids in school is a significant reason to use restorative practices. With no place to go, out-of-school youth may commit crimes or become victims of crime. Police officers’ hands are somewhat tied as there is no truancy offense when youth are legally out of school.
That spells nothing but trouble.
Alice Thompson, CEO of Black Family Development, Inc. in Detroit, another proponent of restorative practices, says that zero tolerance has been abused, being applied to kids for minor offenses.
“You could have flipped off the principal, and so the response has been the kid is expelled from school, and when you’re expelled from school it means you may not attend another Michigan-funded school for another 180 days.”
She says zero tolerance has, inadvertently, beefed up the juvenile justice population in Michigan and Detroit: “It’s not by intention, but if a kid is 15 and out of school, what is he going to do?”
Alternatively, changes can be dramatic when restorative practices are used. Evans tells the story of an elderly substitute teacher being subjected to harsh and disrespectful behavior. The students who had been doing restorative practices stopped the tyranny in the classroom and asked the other students to consider if the sub was hurting them.
The rudeness stopped and the students completed their poetry assignment — and enjoyed it.
“These same kids that stopped the harassment would have been the instigators,” says Evans. “Now, they were saying to their peers that the teacher was being positive, and they needed to listen.”
Evans calls her restorative practices circles the Invested Youth Society of Dividends because she doesn’t like negative terms like “at-risk.” Also, “a lot of our most risky investments give us the best returns,” says Evans.
Restorative practices is a way to encourage those healthy returns while slowing the dropout-to-prison pipeline.
As progress, Thompson points to the Michigan Board of Education’s resolution last summer asking schools to review their zero tolerance policies and to consider restorative practices, positive behavior support, and peer mediation as alternatives to suspension and expulsion.
“And so we’re making some very, very small gains,” says Thompson. “But it always takes time to be able to change a system of behavior, like zero tolerance.”
Reaching the entire community
McClendon and Thompson are working with others to influence larger systems — schools, the police department, the juvenile justice system — to adopt the restorative practices culture, taking a robust approach with the idea of turning Detroit into a restorative practice community.
“We’re doing some heavy lifting, trying to bring restorative practices to scale as a way to communicate, to problem solve, to go through the process of correcting harm, or acknowledging harm and restoring that,” says Thompson, who has 70 staff members trained in restorative practices.
She also employs a restorative practices manager to provide inexpensive training to schools and community groups. She wants to see restorative practices training be accessible to any group that’s interested.
A local restorative practices steering committee of executives from Black Family Development, The Skillman Foundation, YouthVille Detroit, Detroit Parent Network, Cody Rouge Community Alliance, Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, Detroit Police Department, the YMCA, and many more are working toward some lofty goals.
The committee wants to guide the implementation of a restorative practices city, develop a strategic plan to infuse restorative practices into the six Skillman Foundation Good Neighborhoods, and review ongoing data on high crime and conflict areas to put strategy to the geographic areas most in need.
As more leaders espouse the benefits of restorative practices to create a more cohesive culture, help rebuild and repair Detroit, and put the city on a path toward a more peaceful future, it makes sense for the process to start with our kids.
Last Updated on Monday, 04 March 2013 10:56
Category: Community - Original Written by Kurt Weiss
Lansing – The statewide 4-year graduation rates for students expected to graduate last spring increased to 76.24 percent, up 1.9 percent from the 2011 rate of 74.33 percent, according to data released Wednesday by the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI).
“These numbers reflect the highest rates we have seen since we started reporting the data using a cohort methodology,” said CEPI Director Thomas Howell. “This methodology allows us to track individual students from the first time they enroll as ninth-graders and has resulted in a more accurate measure of high school success for our students.”
More than 53 percent of Michigan’s school districts saw higher graduation rates, including many of the largest districts. Detroit City School District showed noticeable improvement, boosting its rate by a full 5 percent, from 59.7 percent to 64.7 percent. Of the 14 school districts with 1,000 or more students in the senior class, all but three improved their graduation rates between 2011 and 2012.
The largest increase in graduation rates throughout a 5-year period were seen in several racial and ethnic groups. Rates for black students reached 59.93 percent last year, an increase of 3.64 percent since 2008. Hispanic student rates were at 64.3 percent, up 3.97 percent. This year’s rate reflects that 73.52 percent of multiracial students graduated in four years, increasing the annual rate by 3.52 percent since 2008.
“This is more positive news for Michigan public schools,” said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. “This is reflective of how our teachers and students are succeeding with the rigorous Michigan Merit Curriculum and being better prepared to continue Michigan’s economic comeback. We must stay on this positive course and keep our standards high and Michigan Merit Curriculum intact.”
Four-year graduation rates are an important school accountability measure adopted by the state and aligned with the National Governors Association Graduation Counts Compact. CEPI also publishes additional valuable information about students who stayed in school longer to earn a diploma in five or six years, found at www.mischooldata.org.
The website provides parents, educators, and policymakers with multiple levels of school data. After clicking on Student Counts/Grad Rates, visitors can perform inquiries by school, district, intermediate school district, or statewide, as well as compare one to another. The site provides 4-year, 5-year, and 6-year graduation rates by gender, race/ethnicity, or by the following demographic categories: economically disadvantaged, English language learners, homeless, migrant, and students with disabilities.
CEPI is a division of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. It was established under the State School Aid Act to coordinate the collection, management, and reporting of all public education data required by state and federal law, in a manner that reduces the administrative burden on reporting entities, complies with privacy laws, and provides useful reports to policymakers, educators, and residents. CEPI is leading efforts to collect and connect longitudinal data that follows students from preschool through postsecondary education and into the workforce, enabling the evaluation of approaches that improve outcomes for Michigan students.
Last Updated on Thursday, 14 February 2013 07:23
Category: Community - Original Written by Britney Spear
It's happened to the best of us. Valentine's Day rolls right around just as fast as it did last year, and you find yourself with the same dilemma. When it sneaks up on you, it's easy to find yourself plagued with the question of what to get your significant other at the last minute.
Fear no more, and look no further! Here's a list of 8 quick and to-the-point yet cute ideas that will put a smile on that special someone's face:
1. Create a homemade gift certificate after all, who's going to complain about a ticket redeemable for say, a bubble bath, dinner, etc.?
2. Give a romantic gesture- try writing out a few miscellaneous notes on 'why I love you' and scattering them about the house.
3. Sing your special someone a love song- preferably their favorite one. Nothing says 'romantic' like a musical serenade.
4. Flowers- predictable, yet always obtainable. You cannot go wrong with them; they've saved plenty of V-Days in the past!
5. Here we go again with the 'usual' - chocolates and/or candies. Satisfy their sweet tooth.
6. Go on a date night - take your sweetheart to a movie, or out to do something nice that you know they will enjoy.
7. Cook at home - preferably their favorite meal. Spice things up with a little wine and candlelight.
8. 'Share' your love with the world... literally! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or all of the above. Professing your fondness to others lets them know you're sincere.
Follow Britney Spear on Twitter @missbritneysp
Last Updated on Thursday, 14 February 2013 15:47
Category: Community - Original Written by Patrica Hubbell
Graceful elm trees once lined the streets of Detroit, forming vaulted tunnels of shade through most neighborhoods. But that all changed when the Dutch elm beetle arrived in the United States in 1930 and pretty much wiped out most of Detroit’s tree canopy by 1980.
The next major devastation to the city’s tree canopy occurred around 2002 when the Emerald Ash Borer beetle wreaked havoc on metro Detroit’s ash tree population, killing tens of millions of these trees.
In a city on the brink of financial disaster, there are few funds to reforest the streets. The consequences of this are significant because trees play such an important role in protecting the environment. They help clean the air, provide shade and cooling in the summer, reduce carbon emissions and help fight climate change. In addition, there is research indicating that neighborhoods with healthy tree canopies have lower crime rates.
For example, a recent study by the U.S. Forest Service shows that trees might actually help reduce crime in big cities. The study was focused on certain districts in the city of Portland, Oregon, and examined the connection between neighborhoods with large tree canopies and crime. After two years of the study, researchers concluded that areas with more tree coverage had lower violent crime rates.
Along with Portland, many other cities around the nation have found a pattern that the more vegetation a neighborhood has, the lower the crime rate. According to urban forestry and urban greening research, “the presence of trees and well-maintained lower understory vegetation can transform barren spaces lands into pleasant, welcoming, well-used places. Such common spaces serve to strengthen ties among residents, increase informal surveillance and deter crime, thereby creating healthier, safer urban communities.
Perhaps Detroit and other high-crime cities need to add a reforestation component to their crime-fighting plans. Safer streets may become an added benefit to the newly released Future Detroit plan.
Editor’s note: Patricia Hubbell is director of marketing for The Greening of Detroit. She previously was a communications planner for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Last Updated on Friday, 08 February 2013 13:37
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