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?
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • 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 - Dublin

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

    £18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

    Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before