An interesting article from today's Globe and Mail newspaper describes the positive changes brought to a violent and troubled school in B.C. by a principal's tough love techniques.
David Derpak came to Killarney Secondary School to find a serious problem. The school's C-wing was a nightmare. Graffiti covered walls, broken windows, locker theft and drug dealing were the norm in C-wing. The cafeteria "was a teenage jungle where the weak were trampled and the biggest kids ate first", according to the author of the article, Kate Hamer.
The phrase "zero tolerance" has been around a long time, but I think it's time we stepped back and took a fresh look at it. It seems to me that after a couple decades of attempting to use this concept to control student's behaviour and discourage violence and bullying, that it hasn't worked all that well. So what went wrong?
Recently there has been a rush to pass new anti-bullying laws in many parts of the world. While I personally applaud such attempts, not every new law is effective, or even necessary. Patch work solutions rarely are.
Laws already exist in most jurisdictions that address various forms of violence and harassment. We don't really need laws specifically targeting bullying, except perhaps to add a definition of cyber-bullying to existing laws. With all the difficulty involved with court challenges and other problems inherent in creating any new set of legislation, it could take years to accomplish a wholesale re-write of existing statutes.