Do Zero Tolerance Policies work in schools?

How can we solve the issues of self-defense in schools? Kids have a right to defend themselves, but doing so causes other problems.

angerThere is a problem.  Many schools have zero tolerance policies in fighting.  If there is a fight, then all students involved, whether they are the aggressor or just defending themselves, will be punished.  I think that’s unfair.  But if schools make rules promising to not punish students who defend themselves, then there is a potential problem: both students fighting will just claim that the other person started the fight and they were just defending themselves, and if no one saw the fight begin, it could be difficult or impossible to know who is telling the truth; also the friends of the people fighting might just stick up for their friend regardless of what the truth is.

What should be done?  Security cameras?  Mock trials?  Something else?

The “no tolerance” policies don’t work because they assume equal culpability – which works in favor of a bully.  We need to move beyond the conflict management model and move to a behavioral extinction model.

Conflict models assume one time conflicts, which are handled and resolved. Behavioral extinction assumes a pattern of behavior that has to be extinguished and dealt with over a period of time.  In other words, we have to stop dealing with violence as if it’s isolated and start looking for the patterns and dealing with those patterns.

It doesn’t really matter if you know who is responsible in a behavioral extinction model. Both sides are given the benefit of the doubt and both sides are taught how to stop the violence using behavioral techniques. What happens though is the victim will be empowered by this process and the bully (if they are a bully), will be unable to cope as the experience will trigger an extinction burst for them.  So as the process moves forward, what’s really happening becomes clear and, you manage to get the behavior you don’t want – the bullying or other forms of violence to stop at the same time.

To learn more – check out my book and some of our professional trainings.