Dignity in schools: an unexcused absence
Sep 24, 2009
“A school should not feel like a prison. A school should feel positive, safe and welcoming. A school should feel like a second home. As I walk through the doors of my school, I want to be treated with dignity.” These are the words of Vernard Carter, a rising 10th grade Rethinker at a well-attended press conference held July 23, 2009.
The Rethinkers – or Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools – know how to zero in on the basics. First (in 2007 and 2008) they tackled bathrooms and lunches, with marked success, and now they are addressing safety and dignity. What could be more basic?
....The July 2009 press conference started out with a tour of the “school of our dreams” in which metal detectors are replaced with mood detectors (people). There is a “chill-out zone.” (“If teachers get lounges, we should too.”) Sounds of running water, trees and flowers soothe frayed nerves. Peer leaders (“our friends”) assist in a resolution circle to help resolve conflict where everyone can share their side of the story, discuss what happened, why it happened, and what everyone would like to see happen to resolve the problem. This fosters understanding, shared accountability, and allows negative emotions to shift into something better, dramatically decreasing out-of-school suspensions.