MAY 2, 1958
NEW YORK—I told you yesterday about the House of Detention for Men in Brooklyn. Now I want to tell you about a visit that same day to Public School 613, also in Brooklyn. This is one of the "600" schools for disciplinary-problem pupils.
There are now five schools of this type, but 613 is the one very good one because of the interest taken by Mrs. Cecile Sands, a member of the Board of Education who initiated a year and a half ago a program known as "Operation More".
Mrs. Sands has given a tremendous amount of time and interest to making this particular school serve the needs of the children who are assigned there, and she has succeeded in getting some essential and outstanding things done. There is a permanent principal, Sidney Lipsyte, who understands young people and cares about them.
Her hope is, of course, that what she has done will spread to all the other "600" schools, but there is yet no sign that this has happened, so one has to go back and read the report of Professor Robert M.McIver, who was appointed last year as director of the Juvenile Delinquency Evaluation Project of the City of New York.
Professor McIver made a thorough study of the all-day "600" schools and recommended that no new ones be established until the existing ones could be improved and the screening procedures that bring children to these schools were changed. His special recommendations were that remedial reading teachers and child guidance personnel be made available to these schools.
Since that time Associate Superintendent William A. Hamm, who is in charge of the Bureau of Child Welfare of the Board of Education, has given instructions that a team consisting of a social worker and psychologist, with psychiatric consultation, spend one day every week in each of the five "600" schools and in each of the three "700" schools (for the older disciplinary-problem pupils).
Another day a week is taken up by interviews, psychiatric consultations, recordings, etc. but this is not done at the school. These instructions are now being implemented and, of course, will tend to bring the other schools up to the level of Public School 613.
I was particularly interested in the shop program, which keeps youngsters busy in the afternoons as well as giving them a chance to develop skills. They are organizing a puppet theatre and giving shows, which is also an important way to express themselves.
I was allowed to sit in on a talk with the principal and some of the graduates who had come back for social visits and now are in other public schools.
I was impressed with the calibre of some of these boys. Their chief reason for feeling they got on better in school 613 was because "the teachers had time to talk over our problems with us." There is more to it than that, of course, but that is a good beginning.
Many of them had had no ties in their neighborhoods, and one of them told me that in his neighborhood the Police Athletic League ran a club in winter but, because of insufficient funds, they closed it in summer when the boys needed it most, leaving them with "nowhere to go and nothing to do".
I felt one great gap in the program was that many of the social agencies that might help actually were not reaching out and finding these boys in their communities. These are the boys who, if not reached, sooner or later will land in the House of Detention.
I cannot help believing that our public schools as a whole should be doing what public school 613 in Brooklyn is doing. Children should not have to be separated and singled out as disturbing elements. We are not getting good enough teachers and superintendents. Our classes are overcrowded.
In short, we are not spending enough to give our children a chance to develop the best that is in them against the odds of poor living conditions and homes where they frequently feel there is no one who has time to think about them as individuals.