Role of Schools in Addressing Violence: Zero Tolerance
and Deborah Lans
we have increasingly come to know, violence begets violence. As
we consider how to address violence in our schools, we need to
focus more broadly on all the ways our society tolerates and teaches
others to tolerate violence. We need to teach our children that
violence—whatever its form—will no longer be tolerated.
Children first learn violent behaviors by witnessing domestic
violence. Nearly one million incidents of domestic violence are
reported in this country each year. No one knows how many incidents
go unreported, but experts believe there may be as many as four
million annually. While most domestic violence is spousal abuse,
the effects of domestic violence are felt profoundly by all members
of the family.
For children, the effects of witnessing domestic violence are
undeniable: of children who witness their fathers abusing their
mothers, 40 percent suffer anxiety, 48 percent suffer depression,
53 percent act out with their parents, and 60 percent act out
with their siblings. If boys see domestic violence, they are 700
times more likely to behave violently; if they are themselves
abused, they are 1,000 times more likely to behave violently.
Schools have many roles to play in preventing violence. First,
like social workers, teachers are trained to be alert to signs
of abuse. When the child is the victim, teachers are required
to report it. But teachers should also be alert to the possibility
that a child is living in an abusive home, and should contact
social services to ameliorate the situation.
Second, the media violence that surrounds children, whether on
television or in movies and video games, must not be welcome in
the classroom. The things children read and see, and more importantly,
the ways they are treated by their teachers and are taught to
treat one another, must model tolerance and nonviolent conflict
Mentoring USA has a supplemental program that addresses violence:
BRAVE (Bias Related Anti-Violence Education). Opening at six sites
in New York City, BRAVE starts with the premise that violence
occurs in an atmosphere of anger and disrespect, and that when
we are taught to respect others and ourselves, tolerance will
supplant violence. The program offers children both mentors and
the opportunity to learn about people from various ethnic and
racial backgrounds who have succeeded in spite of difficult beginnings.
The children have access to special libraries where they and their
mentors can explore their heritage and unique history, and learn
how to apply the lessons of the biographies they have read to
the problems of their own lives and communities. The program has
also developed an activity guide for mentors and teachers to use.
Programs like BRAVE that foster respect for others and teach children
ways to avoid violence should become a staple in our schools and
after-school programs. As we teach respect for others, modeling
respectful behaviors and problem solving, we help to reach the
root causes of violence.
Mentoring USA’s one-to-one model enables children to bond with
a mentor and thus express themselves more openly. Children need
to be heard and supported, and connections provided by mentors
alleviate the oppressive isolation suffered by so many children,
and replace it with hope, thereby reducing the risk that these
children will turn to violence.#
Cuomo is Founder and Chairperson of Mentoring USA. Deborah Lans
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
(212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: email@example.com.
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