Newsday (Nassau Edition) from Hempstead, New York on September 24, 1978 · 262
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Newsday (Nassau Edition) from Hempstead, New York · 262

Hempstead, New York
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 24, 1978
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°e M’ The Lessons of Violence in the (City’s Schools r ii' s By Sheila Gutter Contrary to the prevailing m tion moat schools in New York City are safe During the past year baaed on the annual survey of school violence taken by the United Federation of Teachers only 112 schools out of nearly 1000 schools " in the system could be regarded as "unsafe And these unsafe schmrie tend to be in the toughest highest' crime neighborhoods of this city But if the system as a whole is not suffering greatly from violence some schools— just slightly ovw 10 per cent— are in fact the mimbei of reported incidents of violence (ranging from harassment through robbery and assault) against teachers rose 10 per cent last year ovei ' the year before to a total of 3367 And that the safety of the overall system aside is not an accept able situation Hie UFT uses the number of reported incidents involving teachers aa victims to determine the relative Sheila Cutter who has taught in Queens' schools foi years is now a dean at khn Adams High School and secretary of the school safety om mittee of the United Feaeiatinn of Teachers Miss Becker -' By Hfyrlam Mledilsn Mallnovleh I had no idea that Miss Becker was dead When one of my student doesn’t show up at class I du t think to myself “Perhaps site’s dead" With most students 1 dmt notice But Miss Becker had never - missed a class Every Wednesday evening since the beginning ot the semester she had sat in the same chair in the front row to my left Her eyes were intense and site would lean forward a bit as if not to miss a word I did not know then that Miaa Becker’s interest in my lectures stemmed from anything - more than intellectual curiosity The course entitled "Ethics and Human Nature” focused on the implications of various theories of aggression for such issues as capital punishment rights of the criminal - Iy insane treatment of prisoners " Earlier that fell day as the train v taking me to work had pulled-mui Grand Central Station I had uu ticed a newspaper headline "Ward’s Island Escapee Sought in Slaying of a Psychologist” 1 would often bring an appropriate newspa : to class to illustrate i per clipping to class to illustrate an issue we were discussing Since Ward’s Island is the site of a psychiatric hospital this piece seemed perfect for that evening’s class we had just wound up a discussion on the ethics of brain surgery for the criminally insane and were going on to the issue of capital punishment "I must read it before claw and underline relevant passages” 1 told myself as I folded the paper It wasn’t until I sat down in the - train on my way home amdopenedJ safety or lack of it In a school While students are often victims of echoed crime too the statistics involving them tend to be unreliable Students are just as likely not to re port an incident as to report one First there’s a realistic fear of reprisal Second they don't like to ’fink" on a fellow student And Last week a City Council committee urged the school system to get tougher on school violence A Queens teacher argues that most city schools are safe-hut that violence is on the rise and more should be done to combat it some would rather handle the problem themselves The teacher data on the other hand are fairly reliable— and a good indication of how safe or unsafe a given school is My school John Adams is not unsafe in comparison with schools in the rest of the city To the victim huwever the statistics are not Is Bead Her Murderer ILives the paper that I realised I had forgotten about the article I now read: "A 26-year-old man who waa sent to Matteawan State Hospital for the criminally insane at Fiahkill Correctional Facility after he allegedly stabbed a girlfriend fo death three years ago is being sought in the murder of Judith Becker a 26-year-uld staff psychologist at Fiahkill Correctional Facility The suspect Ricardo 3 Caputo - had walked away from the Kirby Psychiatic Hospital a minimum security state institution on Ward’s Island last Friday” Nassau County police had charged Caputo with murder of a 20-year-old Flower Hill woman in August 1971 The name of the second woman Caputo waa said to have killed sounded familiar bat I waa more than halfway through the article before I dared to open my briefbase and look through my student cards I found it quickly: "Judith Becker Yonkers Occupation: Psychologist” 1 forced myself to read on: "The body waa found by her parents a stocking knotted around her throat and her head battered ” A great story it would have made foi that evening's class indeed if only it hadn’t been about Miaa Becker who happened to be absent that evening and would continue to be absent because the stocking happened to have been knotted around her throat Almost four years have passed since Miss Becker’s death but I still think of her frequently 1 think of her whenever I read about the death penalty whenever I discuss it with students prfriqiyte-Aicausq Of much consolation — and I was a victim I am a towering five feet tall and weigh in at a hefty 100 pounds One day I stopped a student in the hall when he didn't belong there and said "Excuse me but don’t you belong in class?" Hie answer waa a broken nose fractured cheek bone and a lifetime of sinua problems The physical injuries are only part of the story for me and for every other teacher assaulted The emotional trauma is overwhelming There is a sense of helplessness of vulnerability Fox a long time I Mamed myself Why should I care if the kid gets to Miss Becker I have so to speak lost my innocence on this topic For while 1 sympathize with those who cringe at the thought of a firing a volted squad shunting a person or chair electrocuting him I cannot help but cringe at the thought of all the murders committed by recidivists When 1 think about the death rIf I oppose the death penalty even in cases where the risk of' recidivism is high then I must be willing to shoulder some of the moral responsibility for the deaths of thousands of murder victims penalty now the choice no longer appears to me as a choice between taking or not taking a human life but aa a choice between lives Will it be the Misa Beckers or will it be their murderers? "Ricardo Caputo is still at large” I was informed recently by a Yonkers detective "He was last spotted out in California” "Ia he a suspect in any recent cases?” I asked "No but that doesn’t tell you much” Somewhere in California (or wher- t ‘ft r- class? I thought Why couldn't I have just walked un by? My feelings of adequacy declined I cant handle the job f began to think And there waa the normal fear of walking back into a building and a situation where it had happened once and could happen again The student m question came to our school as a result ot what those knowledgeable about school safety call a "roads scholarship" — he had been transferred from another school for the same type of artful activity that was worked upon my face - That’s part of the problem The "roads scholars” know that almost anything goes If a kid under 16 can get only 18 months for murder in the first degree the penalty for belting a teacher is probably going to be a reprimand a transfer— and the Distinguished Service Cross from his peers Too often when a teacher takes a student to court on an assault charge the family court response has been something along the lines ofi "What did you to do provoke this rr child to such desperation that waa compelled to nit you with that ax handle?” There are often roadblocks in even getting to court If you are hit by someone over 16 but not hard — Continued on Page 11 these past four years) there may well be other Misa Beckers If I oppose the death penalty even in cases where the risk of recidivism ia high then I must be willing to shoulder mime of the moral responsibility fin the deaths of thousands of muidei victims aa well aa the suffering of their husbands wives children parents ("The body was found by her parents a stocking knotted around her throat and her head battered ") But what about life imprisonment? Quite simply I do not believe that our society would be willing to pay the coat of life imprisonment for murderers many uf whom are in their teens o 20a At present rates keeping one muideier imprisoned for 40 years would cost the taxpayer more than $400000 Sooner or later (if they had nut already managed to escape) they would be released and then I am back to Misa Becker I have the feeling that Misa Becker herself was piobably against the death penalty She struck me as just the kind of sensitive concerned person who is often repelled at the thought- of the electric chair 8h probably had a youthful optimism about the ability uf psychotherapy to change people people like Ricardo Caputo ()f course I shall never know for sure since she was not in class the evening we discussed the death penalty Myriam Miedaian Malinovich who has taught philosophy at several colleges is vice president of a private educational and t ’research institute irrftewYork - - ( J i-s V ’i- --V r OL £'J 1 y-M 4 i t mm i-w 1 w

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