- Faith & Family
SRE, Inc. works to help lower school violence, bullying
As the violence in the community persists, the fights and bullying in primary and secondary schools seem to project a mirroring of it. Last year, 282,000 students were physically attacked monthly in middle and high schools, according to the bureau of justice statistics for school crime and safety. In addition, a survey from the American Justice Department has found that 1 of 4 kids are bullied. The survey also proves that cyberbullying continues to get worse and that bullying is an important contributor to youth violence, including homicide and suicide. But fortunately there are some people at the schools who are helping bring peace among the youth and teaching them that violence is not the right way to deal with conflict.
Solid Rock Enterprise, Inc., a non-profit organization that has provided meaningful conflict resolution and reconciliation at Brownsville Middle School since 2004, is starting monthly after-school meetings to help decrease bullying, fights and violence.
“A lot of these issues go back to elementary school; they’re mad from the third grade,” said Arnetha Thomas, the founder and CEO of Solid Rock. “Sometimes they can’t even tell you why they’re angry. They’re just mad.”
Thomas said that many of the youth imitate what they see at home. Also, she said it is harder to live peacefully in some neighborhoods. Many students don’t want to look “soft” and others are taught to fight if someone hits them or one of their siblings.
Is the community influencing violence in schools?
Some youth even attempt to refrain from fighting, but they feel that the fights are sometimes inevitable.
“Ms. Thomas, I’m telling you when I go home in the neighborhood, it doesn’t work,” a student said to Thomas after trying to use one of the tactics that the organization teaches. Some of the strategies include peacefully resolving conflict, peer mediation and anger management.
Although the tactics don’t always work, there are times when youth who were fighting and were enemies end up walking out of her office holding hands, when she uses conferencing, circles, peer mediation, Kingian Non-violence character building and many other conflict resolution practices, she said.
The monthly violence prevention meetings that started at Brownsville on Dec. 7 will focus on anti-bullying, by educating students on bullying behaviors and strategies of dealing with bullies.
Thomas said the practices help the youth when they are at Brownsville Middle but in order for them to sustain anti-bullying and non-violent behavior they must have a strong family support system.
“If they don’t have a good family support system, many times once they leave here, it is over and they fall through the cracks.”
By Malika A. Wright