“Hey, get out of my way. I got here first.”
“Well I’m here now, so get lost.”
Do you take conflicts like this seriously? Many violent incidents that occur in public spaces, schools, and at home start with similar confrontations.
The recent incident at John Barsby Secondary clearly indicates the need for a Conflict Resolution Program. Ironically, the school district administration just passed an inclusion policy which was intended to “create safe schools” for everyone.
A policy is a start, but the school district administration needs to have a conflict resolution program. The entire school environment needs to change from the top down.
Conflict Resolution Program (CRP)
A lot of students come from dysfunctional homes where verbal put-downs, fighting and abuse is the norm. Therefore, school is the only place where society has a chance to teach youth how to resolve conflicts without violence. Traditional discipline or punishment won’t work for students that come from these backgrounds.
Schools have an important role to play to break the cycle of violence. Conflict resolution must be included in the SD68 curriculum. Students of all ages must be taught:
- how to communicate in a tense situation
- have empathy
- listen actively
- recognize body language
- understand different viewpoints
The entire school—all students, teachers, and administrators needs to be involved in a conflict resolution program. Parents need to be included too because children copy the behaviours acted out at home.
In such a program there is a focus on teaching communication skills and the use of words. The emphasis is on negotiation, rather than having a third party mediate. Often times a mediator comes up with a solution that neither party likes.
It is far better to teach students the skills they need to handle disagreements on their own and what to do if a conflict escalates. Another idea is for schools to establish peer groups to find solutions to conflicts by brainstorming options without passing judgment.
SD68 needs to start the process of ensuring all of our schools are safe, peaceful places of learning. As a start check out the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution.