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  • Dawn

An Unconventional Take On Conflict

I think it is interesting that in the same week we have had side-by-side examples of what kind of discipline works well with teenagers and what kind does not. I am not making any judgments on those who choose one or the other, but I do think it is important that we consider our soon-to-be-adults and the environment and structures they are growing up in. I also want to disclose that I do not have all the details of both situations (few of us do) so I am only commenting on the general situation and not the individuals involved.

Case 1:

In South Carolina a teenager apparently was very disruptive in the classroom and was removed from the class by a school resource officer. SRO is a fairly new position in our school systems and is the direct result of the increased number of school shootings and violence in schools. According to the research published in “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right,” the response in many schools throughout the country “has been to rely on law enforcement agencies and the use of zero-tolerance measures” in an effort to ensure a safer environment for our youth. Unfortunately, this has not been the effective tool for reducing violence and creating a better learning environment for students that we hoped it might be. Some believe it has been a harmful process of criminalization of young people and has created what is known and referred to as the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Critics of the students’ behavior have asked what else could the response have been to such a disrespectful and obstinate adolescent? That’s a difficult question to answer because we don’t know the history of the relationship between the teacher and student, the student’s mental health or situation away from the classroom, but there are a number of conflict interventions that can deescalate even the most difficult conflicts among teenagers.

1.) Utilize Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

Search #Rethinkdiscipline for great ideas

See more her

2.) Restorative justice approaches

There are too many of these to explain in this article but schools and communities

around the nation are having success implementing these models that include

Restorative Circles and Mediations. Read one schools success

Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Rethinking 'Zero Tolerance'

3.) Support training and education for Resource Officers who work directly with


Case 2:

In DC, a unique and unconventional approach to conflict was use to break up a fight between two girls. The response by the teens to the officer was what we want from our young people and the lesson learned is hopefully one that will last! Sometimes doing the least expected thing gets their attention and changes the situation.

I can’t imagine how difficult classroom discipline is for teachers and the pressure to teach a standardized curriculum is such a challenge. However, I work with so many teens who are feeling an equal amount of pressure to learn and meet the standards set in front of them. Although implementing unconventional interventions takes time away from being in the classroom, the incident in South Carolina provides a great reminder to teach conflict resolution skills, something we all desperately need. We need to rethink what lessons are the most important for our young people and how to model desired skills for them.

We commonly remind ourselves at TASC that “hurt people hurt people.” It’s a reminder that students often act out of their pain. But it’s also true that “loved people love people.” The next generation will grow up to love people if they are loved and not hurt. It’s a big job but if we work together change can happen. Let’s dance!!

In this together ~ Dawn

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