Cross-Cultural Conflict Resolution in the Schools: Some Practical Intervention Strategies for Counselors

Article excerpt

It is clear that acts of violence and terror have now become pervasive in our culture. These are not just violent acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists, or even community gangs, but manifestations of verbal and physical abuse, bullying, extortion, and fights that take place inside the schools themselves. School violence continues to be an area in which many experts agree that more must be done to protect children and help them cope with the effects (Capozzoli & McVey, 2000; Elliott, Hamburg, & Williams, 1998; Goldstein & Conoley, 1997; Hurford, Lindskog, & Mallett, 2000; Sandhu, 2001; Shafii & Shafii, 2001). Many children are afraid to go into the restroom or out on the playground because of the level of violence in school settings (Elliot et al., 1998). According to statistics published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 1993, 28% of shootings happened inside a school building; 36% of violent events happened outdoors on school property; 35% happened off-campus; and, since 1992, the total number of multiple-victim events has increased consistently (CDC, 1993). According to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES; Heaviside, Rowand, & Williams, 1998), approximately 57% of public elementary and secondary schools reported one or more incidents of violence during the 1996-1997 school year. Finally, urban schools are more prone to violence than are their suburban or rural counterparts (Flaherty, 2001), but regardless of where violence occurs, its presence adversely and significantly affects the amount of learning taking place in a school environment (Sandhu, 2001).

When the public thinks about violence in schools, in general, high visibility cases such as the mass murders at Columbine come to mind. However, violence in schools can be conceptualized as any act of intimidation, threats, harassment, robbery, vandalism, physical assault, rape, sexual battery, or murder that happens on school grounds or buses going to and from school or from a school sponsored event (Capozzoli & McVey, 2000; Flaherty, 2001; Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1996). Kopka (1997) asserted that racial epithets, White supremacy symbols, or a hard shove in a school hallway are also considered violent acts. The tendency for school personnel to use all-encompassing definitions for "violent acts" means that parents and counselors can expect that children are much more likely to qualify for the label "a victim of violence" today (and in the very near future) than they would have qualified for this designation in the past. Furthermore, given the broad conceptualization of school violence, one might even expect incidences of school violence to be underreported. Few victims of school violence have actually reported their victimization to the police, and less than half have reported the victimization to either the police or school officials (Elliott et al., 1998; R. S. Newman, Murray, & Lussier, 2001).

VIOLENCE IS GROWING: POSSIBLE REASONS

Even though change in defining what is and is not a violent act has "inflated" the number of violent acts, there is evidence that violence has increased, and there are a number of explanations to account for the increase. In fact, Ketti (2001) maintained that we have many more theories about violence than data to support them. Although no definitive causative factors can be directly linked to a specific incidence of violence, one explanation for violence has been conceptualized by considering the complex interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors (Ketti, 2001; Shafii & Shafii, 2001). Furthermore, the same authors who called attention to the complex interplay of these three factors (i.e., Ketti, 2001; Shafii & Shafii, 2001) also believed that a lack of conflict resolution training was a significant contributor to violence (Ketti, 2001; Shafii & Shafii, 2001).

In addition to the lack of conflict resolution skill that has received the greatest attention in the literature, there are other contributors to violence that deserve attention. …