I can imagine that the administrators at Roscoe R. Nix Elementary School in Silver Spring were troubled and uncertain about how to address the hand gestures of a 6-year-old suggesting a possible motivation to shoot a child. And according to the article in The Gazette, he had been warned about that behavior earlier in the day and repeated it.
This certainly is a situation which calls for more clarity about what was done, what the intentions of the participants in the incident were, and how the participants and possibly others in the school community were affected by what happened. In short, this seems like a perfect situation for a community conference involving the children involved, the parents, and the relevant school personnel. In such a conference every gets a chance to talk about their experience of what happened, how they have been affected and to come to a voluntary agreement about what can be done to address the harm created by the actions and to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Children, especially, need to learn about how their choices affect others and how they can use that knowledge in the future to make different choices. And it is helpful for adults to reflect upon how they and the environments that they provide for children can support different choices for children. I would hope in the future that the staff of this school and other schools in Montgomery County will utilize the services of the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County (www.crcmc.org) that has been effectively providing Community Conferencing to schools, families, workplaces and neighbors at no charge for a number of years. How much more can be gained by such a process which involves a thorough exploration of everyones experience and perspective and the creation of an agreement that addresses everyones concerns. Lawyers fighting about who’s to blame and what, if any, punishment there should be cause us to focus all of our attention on the potential punishment rather than evaluating who has been harmed and how to make things better. I believe that almost everyone can become better at peacefully resolving conflicts, whether in the school, the home, the workplace or the community. And what better place to support that learning than in the schools with the children.
Dr. Jane Connor, Takoma Park
The writer is the coordinator of restorative practices at High Point High School, Beltsville.