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Creating Safe Environments in Our Schools

Posted December 11, 2012 in Community Blogs, Clear Lake

Linda Lantieri and Janet Patti are co-authors of the book entitled “Waging Peace In Our Schools”.  Their perspectives are right in line with all of the heightened awareness and concerns about bullying across the nation and certainly in our State of Iowa.  They suggest:

“Our society needs a new way of thinking about what it means to be and educated person.  We can no longer turn away from the emotional fabric of children’s lives or assume that learning can take place isolated from their feelings.  We need a vision of education that recognizes that the ability to manage our emotions, resolve conflicts, and interrupt biases are fundamental skills—skills that can and must be taught.” P. 3

The Clear Lake Community School District has in place policies, procedures and reporting tools to address bullying and harassment concerns.  The District has taken a very pro-active approach which supports Lantieri and Patti’s charge to schools to include deliberate teaching about how to interact with other human beings.

Clear Creek Elementary has been engaged for some time in utilizing Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports programming that teaches students about how to demonstrate respect and kindness, responsibility for themselves and others and helps them learn about how to solve personal interaction problems with friends and adults.  PBIS is a nationally researched program that is supported through our Area Education Agency for training.

Clear Lake Middle School has just re-visited Diane Gossen’s work on “Restitution, Restructuring School Discipline”.  The Middle School had adopted this model but over time and with staff changes, it was time to re-train.  The staff had the benefit of working directly with Ms. Gossen prior to school beginning this fall and will be able to work with her during the second semester.  On the very first days of school this fall our staff worked with students to gain an understanding of what is expected of them and of the adults.  “Restitution is the produce of the interrelationship of three variables:  the person I want to be, my social conscience or how I want to be treated by others, and the value to be protected.” p. 107

Her work focuses on “methods for less coercive classroom management . . . and she presents this as a technique to strengthen children. . . for them to develop self-discipline.” (p. 118)  Ms. Gossen recommends that we approach the restitution process “with the following philosophical tenets(these are quoted below):

1. Everyone makes mistakes.  Mistakes are normal; to err is part of the human condition.

2. People know when they have done wrong.

3. Even a child understands when he/she has broken something or hurt someone.

4. Guilt and criticism contribute to defensive behavior.  People put up walls and use a lot of energy rationalizing past wrongs to preserve their self-esteem when under attack.

5. People can learn a better way if we can keep thm on the success side.  If we can view them as capable, responsible, and willing to change even in the face of their mistakes, they have incentive to move forward.

6. People are strengthened by the opportunity to make restitution.  Because everyone makes mistakes, an important life skill is learning to repair them.

7. People won’t lie or hide their mistakes if they believe they are capable of making restitution and will be given an opportunity.

8. The process of making restitution is a creative one which build problem-solving skills in the offender.  People who have been allowed to make restitution are generous with others who make mistakes.  They are non-punitive themselves as adults.”  (From  “Restitution, Restructuring School Discipline” by Diane Chelsom Gossen p. 128-129 )

We always need the help of our families and community when issues do arise.  Please contact your building administrator or child’s teacher if you have a concern about how your son or daughter is feeling about school and friendship making.  We are here to help.

Our schools are creating safe environments for children both physically and emotionally.  Another reason to be proud of our schools!

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