The Talk It Out Solution
How can you promote safety? Try getting rid of the metal detectors.
By Caralee Adams | November/December 2008
What makes for a safe school? Security guards patrolling the hallways? Metal detectors? Zero-tolerance policies? The answer may be none of the above: Educators are searching for new solutions to achieving harmony in the classroom and, surprisingly, they’re increasingly holistic. “There aren’t enough bars, metal detectors, or police to make a school safe if there is a culture of violence in a school,” says Ted Wachtel, founder of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “You need to strike at the heart of the culture.”
Trying restorative practices
One safer schools initiative making its way across the nation is the implementation of “restorative practices.” Rather than meting out punishments, restorative practices employs a talk-it-out approach to foster dialogue between aggrieved students. Students are taught basic social skills to problem-solve and lower the tension in schools. One premise of the strategy is that kids feel safe when there is cooperation instead of hostility; another is that kids who feel valued and connected at school are less likely to act out. Many administrators around the country are investing in restorative practices programs to build a healthy school climate in hopes of fending off violence and improving academic performance.
Restorative practices places responsibility on the students themselves rather than relying on zero tolerance and authoritarian control from above. It uses a collaborative response to wrongdoing, which is intended to be supportive, not demeaning.
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