Demystifying the conflict culture
Akin, Jeremy Hall
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The students impacted by exclusionary discipline policies—e.g., suspension, expulsion, and placement at alternative schools—comprise a consistently large population among Staycomb/Chippling County Public Schools in Georgia. Since the 2005-2006 school year, fighting has remained a leading cause for suspensions and expulsions (District Accountabilty System, 2009). During this time, the average number of suspensions each suspended student received has gradually increased, reaching an all-time high of 2.6 suspensions per capita in 2008-09 (Youth Futures Authority). These realities raise questions as to the long-term effects of the school system’s current application of zero tolerance, a ‘get-tough’ approach to discipline that was originally intended to make schools safe from weapons and drugs but has since been expanded to punish more minor offenses. Through interviews and surveys of students, parents, faculty, and administrators affiliated with a disciplinary alternative education program, this study conducted between January and March 2010 sheds light on the following questions: What are the root causes of the “conflict culture”—defined as the social code which says fighting is the only viable way to resolve conflicts? How might these issues be effectively addressed? Furthermore, is the zero tolerance approach adequate for addressing Chippling County’s high levels of student fighting? Results from interviews and surveys have been analyzed via descriptive and correlational statistics. For quantitative data, charts and frequency distributions were developed. Research findings reported in Chapter 4 and discussed in Chapter 5 will be made available to system administrators and will inform the curriculum of a peer mediation program in which students at seven area high schools mediate real-life conflicts involving their classmates.