This article warms my heart on so many levels.
As you may know from following my blog. I am a peacenik and do what I can to promote peace and non-violence as a way of living and communicating. I support groups like The Peace Alliance and Bloggers for Peace.
This school in Philadelphia tried what many considered a radical approach to dealing with their violence problems at school.
John Paul Jones was consistently listed as one of the most dangerous schools in Pennsylvania due to it’s surrounding drug dealing and fights that often spilled over to the school. JPJ , like many big city urban schools, was using police and high security measures in attempting to bring down the violence. Educators started questioning the value of these oppressive measures that predominate in larger urban public schools like Philadelphia’s.
Administrators and academics starting talking about how environment affects kids and learning. Last year they decided to implement a whole new approach to teaching and discipline based on the principals on non-violence. They tore down the fences, removed window grills, let go the police protection. They even changed their name to Memphis Street Academy as part of the program to re-invent themselves and their approach. Understandably, the police warned them of the risk and encouraged them to keep the security measures.
Luckily, school CEO Dr. Christine Borelli persisted in making the changes and committing to their new approach. Coaches and trainers were brought in by Alternatives to Violence Project to teach the teachers non-violent conflict resolution. The idea was to change the environment from ‘jail-like’ to one that is more humane, encouraging and welcoming.
The best part is not only are students enjoying, learning and graduating, some now have hopes of going to college. They have reduced their occurrences of violence by 90% in one year! Ready Jeff Deeney’s article for the whole story.
This story affirms my faith in the inherent goodness of people. Most people and life simply reflect back what we give out. By changing their paradime from fear-based security measures to love-based encouragement, the school radically shifted the experience of school for the children.
What are you doing to encourage peace and non-violent communication in your life?
Let peace prevail, Brad