Guest Editorial for Youth and Schools Section

by Jim Eisele
November 2002
With the 2002 National Safe Schools Week upon us (October 20-26, 2002), it is an appropriate time to reflect on the topic of safety in schools. Safety is an ongoing issue on the forefront in many schools across the United States. How safe are our schools? What can be done to make them safer? These and many other questions are certainly on the minds of parents, teachers, administrators, and board members alike.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow devised a “hierarchy of needs”, which included the need for safety. Maslow theorized that next to physiological needs such as the need for oxygen, water, food, etc. was the need for safety.

Most will agree that safety is an important issue, and especially so in schools. When a child goes to school, the parent places their child in the daily care and responsibility of other adults for (in most cases) a minimum of 13 years. The parent trusts that those teachers will not only help keep their child safe, but will also teach that child the information that is needed to function as a productive member of society.

Safety in schools encompasses many different issues, perhaps the most important of which is violence. Violence in schools is an issue that permeates our society, one that continues to be addressed from the highest levels of government right down to the students themselves. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, in its October 2000 Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2000 report, stated that in 1998, nine percent of school crimes-more than 250,000-were serious violent crimes including murder, rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault. However, since the 1997-98 school year, the National School Safety Center reports in its School Associated Violent Deaths Report that school-related deaths by the school year 2000-01 were down by 50%.

There are many different options as to what can be done to make our schools a safer place, especially in the area of reducing violence. Conflict resolution has been shown to be one of those answers. There are many different options in employing conflict resolution principles in schools. This might include education in conflict resolution techniques, problem-solving techniques, and violence alternatives. It may also include peer/student mediation and mentoring. The key, however, is communication among all parties involved. Communication plays an important role in any interaction, but it becomes especially important in conflict resolution.

Biography


Jim Eisele a final year graduate student earning my Master of Arts: Negotiation and Conflict Management degree from California State University - Dominguez Hills. I am the father of three boys ages 1, 2 and 5, with the oldest being in Kindergarten. Additionally, I am an elected member of the Hall School District Board in North Platte, Nebraska, and serve on the Safety, School Improvement, Technology, and Building and Grounds committees.

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