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Safe and Caring Schools

Posted By: Donna DesBiens on April 22, 2003
Thank you Sandra for presenting a paper on the critical issue of violence in schools, and highlighting the crucial role the schools have to play in turning the tide toward safe and caring places for kids to learn.

I agree wholeheartedly that curriculum and values education are an important part of a generative response to this complex social problem. I think we also need critical reflection on the nature and quality of school culture, teacher-student relations, and "partnerships" with parents and the community, and then assertive action plans that identify and support the best of what exists, as well as naming and addressing barriers.

I have some questions about what character education actually means for different people, and wonder if we might reach a better consensus if we looked at values education in terms of ethics of caring, responsibilty, authenticity and so on.

Although the idea of a positive peer culture is much more appealing than the oppositive violent, negative culture in progress, based on some 15 years of therapeutic work redeeming 'youth gone wrong,' I believe that idea is insufficient to the magnitude of the violence crisis, and the nature of youth needs. Children and youth need responsible, responsive, and respect-able adults who are in significant roles, like teachers, parents and others in the inner circle to induct them into what it means to be a human being. Looking to a peer culture for social change on this critical issue, I think deepens the problem.

From my point of view, a severe relationship-disconnect between adults and youth is part of the problem. We need to bring them closer, not send them away to their peers who are just as confused. So the solution starts with us reaching out to youth, with our life experience, and more developed capacities, to show them the way forward.

For other educators interested in making a real difference to the well-being of youth, I recommend you take a look at the comprehensive model put together by the Alberta Teachers Association, Safe and Caring Schools Project, at:

As you may note with this second comment coming from the U of C, in Alberta we take our caring seriously!

Donna Desbiens
Graduate Student
University of Calgary

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 Safe and Caring Schools by Donna DesBiens on April 22, 2003
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