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
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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

    Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

    £17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'