As my team and I help schools across the country learn the best practices to respond to aggressive behaviors on campus, we’ve noticed a specific need arise. After training the students, staff, and parents on the “Peace Sign Approach” to social aggression, schools are quick to implement the strategies I teach. Still, they express that, although they are seeing success, district policies tend to take a legal approach to aggression. This means that school policy contradicts what research shows is best for handling aggressive behavior, such as bullying. The ramifications of following this legal approach can negatively impact staff morale, create unrealistic expectations for parents, and increase liability for schools. I knew we needed to help schools solve this problem.
One of my mentors, Ambassador Dr. Clyde Rivers, once told me “Policy creates culture. If you want to change a culture, you must craft policy”. I couldn’t agree more. As district policymakers have attended my professional development training seminars on bullying, I’ve often heard them say, “I wish we could implement this district-wide. If only we could share this mindset and information with everyone.” The solution was clear. We had to develop a resource for school board members and policymakers that gave them the tools need to craft new policy that aligned with best practices. Furthermore, we needed to provide support and give them the freedom to craft this policy in a way that best served their district’s unique needs and goals.
This year my colleagues and I developed a new document for the Campus Peace-Building Initiative called the “Peaceable School Approach to Aggression. It was our goal to create a working document that assists districts in writing policy along with their Student Code of Conduct using best practices. Based on research in social and emotional learning, resilience education, and positive behavior reinforcement, it presents a logical view of conflict and aggression. At the same time, it educates and empowering students to solve social problems. Finally, it offers appropriate disciplinary action based on the severity of behavior, uses conflict to build resilience, and helps parents and school staff get on the same page.
The response to this new resource has been overwhelming! Administrators and school board members are gathering and discussing new responses to aggression and they’re chatting with parents through open-dialogue sessions, fostering unity and promoting growth. It’s a breathe of fresh air to know that because of these new policies, the message that I share will impact campus culture for years to come.
Components of the Peaceable School Approach to Aggression
- A Logical View of Aggression and Conflict
- Discerning Types of Aggression: Criminal Behavior and Bullying
- An Overview of the Districts’ Efforts
- How the District Handles Various Types of Aggression
- Discipline for Aggressive Behavior
- Student Code of Conduct: Example
This winter, my team and I will be consulting and further helping schools with their prevention, intervention, and response efforts. If you are interested in learning more about the “Peaceable School Approach to Aggression” for your school/district, you may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616-805-6816. We look forward to serving you.