It’s become clear that our schools are not exempt from contemporary social ills. The recent death of Amy Joyner-Francis is the most tragic and public result of the issues plaguing our young people but by no means is it an isolated incident. Every day in schools across Delaware there is bullying and fighting. I do not believe this is a class, gender, race, or urban issue but rather a civility issue. Too often, young people lack civility when dealing with each other. I am not talking about the impoliteness that children often possess and that fades as they mature. I am talking about the utter lack of respect for one another. Not just the lack of polite comments or actions but a total lack of respect for one another lives. To put it simply, treat others as you’d like to be treated. We all know the golden rule. The issue with this rule as it applies to current times is that these children are not always treated with respect. That makes it much harder for us to expect them to treat others any differently.
This obviously starts at home. Parents should treat their children with respect. Strong parental oversight of our children is paramount. Teachers can only do so much during the several hours a day they spend with the child. Other adults, such as family friends, mentors, and coaches must also observe this rule when dealing with each other, but especially young people. We cannot simply ask them to “do as I say, not as I do”. Children are led by example and emulate the behavior of adults. To put a variation on the golden rule: act the way you’d like your children to act.
Some work should be done in our schools as well. School superintendents should convene a civility summit to discuss and develop strategies for encouraging civility among students. The outcome of this summit should result in policies instituted district wide. While these policies may seem unnecessary to some, at least it would provide a standard guideline to follow. School administrators, faculty, and staff must be trained in de-escalation tactics by law enforcement professionals.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 6 principles of non-violent conflict resolution should be included in school instruction manuals. It is a useful guide to nonviolent conflict resolution that can help teachers resolve some student conflict. It might seem hard to imagine 15 year olds sitting down to talk about their differences but it shouldn’t be. We can teach them that it is okay to disagree but it should be done politely and respectfully.