Show respect - and love will follow

A US teacher believes she has the answer to rising school violence. SARAH LITVINOFF reports

It's been a harrowing year for American schoolchildren and their families. They have struggled to come to terms with the events at Columbine High School, when two students shot and killed 13 people, and the shooting incident, with six injured, at a school in Georgia.

The key now is to look forward - to stop this recurring. Many in the States are turning to a woman called Linda Lantieri for the solution. Lantieri is national director of the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP), used in 375 schools in the States. Last week Columbia University published the results of a two-year evaluation of RCCP.

These offered a glimmer of hope: students who'd taken part were more likely to resolve conflicts verbally than physically. They also academically outperformed students who weren't involved in the programme.

Lantieri was in London this week, speaking about how RCCP functions, which she documented in Waging Peace in Our Schools (Beacon Press). She sounds like a pure New Yorker: laconic, fast, not overly expressive. But her Italian heritage is obvious: you can feel the passion behind her delivery.

RCCP is a comprehensive programme, working with school staff, parents, families and students. Parents and staff are taught new skills. "It can be difficult because it might be different from what they've been doing for 20 years of their career."

Communication and conflict-resolving skills are taught in group work and role playing. "It's not preaching. It's offering tools. Teachers offer them, then let students realise the value for themselves."

Lantieri's apprenticeship as a teacher in East Harlem in the Sixties provided the experience which became the programme's backbone. She loved teaching, and had been a Sunday-school attender, from a close Italo-German family. But she was shocked by what she found at work. The school was tough, the children very poor. Yet the atmosphere was the catalyst for Lantieri's thinking. Before the children could learn anything, she realised, the right climate had to be created. "If I'd had a classroom of obedient kids I might not have realised how essential it was to create a real sense of community - to show them how to interact."

Promotion took Lantieri into administration, where she systematised her approach into RCCP. She was happy working on a small scale with three schools. But in 1993, Patrick Daly, the headmaster of one school, was killed in the crossfire of a drug deal. Undeterred, Lantieri knew she had to make the programme national. Now RCCP has over 40 staff at 13 sites, and is being invited to develop the programme in other countries.

I tell Lantieri about a frighteningly antisocial teenager in my street. He has a menacing gang, and I can't see him benefiting from such a programme. Wrong, she argues. "Kids like him who often become the best mediators." Mediators are chosen by peers and trained to mediate between students. "They're a cross-section. If they were all goody-goodies, the kids on the fringe would not respect the method." They have a "peace corner" where mediations happen. Working in pairs, they get disputants to talk through the problem and guide them towards finding a solution, which is turned into a signed agreement - checked up on a couple of days later.

"Social bonding is vital for a young person like the kid in your street. Gangs are their attempts to create community and standing. When young people experience the community we create, where everyone is respected, they don't have to turn to antisocial ways."

Lantieri worries the right lessons are not being learnt from Columbine. "Guards and metal detectors have been installed. That didn't stop a Swastika being drawn on a wall. They are bringing solutions of containment and technology. One metal detector costs $100,000 - against $50,000 per year for RCCP. Things won't change till we nurture young people's emotional, social and intellectual development."

For more details about Linda Lantieri and the RCCP (tel:01923 820 900.)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Receptionist

    £14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss