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School Violence Due in Part to Intolerance

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It has become obvious to many in the wake of the Colorado school killings that our children do not understand tolerance. They can neither accept those that are different, nor be unaccepted themselves. This problem is one of the many causes of violence. The school tragedy and today's violence can be traced to many causes, but the problem is a complex one. This is just one, minute part of the many causes.

The young men, who perpetrated the horror of the Littleton, Colorado School tragedy, were said to be admirers of Hitler and the ideas he stood for and promoted. It was reported that they held a grudge against blacks, and jocks. In fact, the killing victims did include one black male and a couple student athletes as well. No indication as to what the reason was for the other victims, and much seems to be random about the incident. However, it is agreed it was pre-planned and organized to a high degree. One witness reported that the shooter announced his retaliation was for last year, with an inference that other students mistreated him.

Kids have always been cruel in some ways to those not included in their own little cliques, but not this violent. In my era, we got back at someone in a more subtle way, not with weapons and bombs. Where has the reality of the little poem about "sticks & stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me" gone? Hateful things can be said by any of us when provoked. Things we later regret, or wish we could take back. Words can at least be apologized for and amends made, not so with bullets and explosives.

Children need to be taught to be less cruel toward others. They must respect human life. Tolerance must be taught at home. They must be tolerant of those they dislike. People do not need to embrace those folks. They can even ignore those people, but certainly should not act out with violence against them. I realize there are many people who stand for things we hate, but we cannot just kill them. It is much more appropriate to report those peoples' actions to others that are able to measure their impact and significance. We also must become less sensitive about what others think of us or even what they say. How weak we are when we can be so easily destroyed by others reactions to us. Is our self-esteem so low? Yes, I suppose it is for many of our kids.

Schools cannot be expected to police every nook and cranny of the larger facilities we are required to use for education. I do believe these teachers, counselors, and principals should have a pretty good knowledge, however, of what their students are all about. Teachers should know their students. In many cases the teachers spend more time with the kids than their own parents. This means a teacher is more likely to see the changes that a person exhibits before they commit such desperate acts. This is not a blame of teachers or school officials and I am certainly not excusing parents here for not knowing their child, but we all need to work together to find those early signs of trouble. Kids often pick up on these signals, why don't adults?

Tolerance must not only be learned, but also practiced by all people everywhere. If we want to save our children, we must start by keeping violence from being the answer to their every problem. They must learn non-violent ways to settle differences and parents, teachers, and other adults must learn mediation skills. Next, we need to teach conflict resolution skills to kids. But most important, start teaching tolerance when children are young to avoid this aspect of this complex problem. The second most helpful thing you can do is to be aware of what those children you come into contact with are thinking. Let's stop this tragedy at its source.

Both mom and dad need to know what their kids are doing and who they are with every day. The dinner table is a vital place to learn more about what is going on in your child's mind.

Parents should share their values. If parents do not show by example or never talk about important issues kids will not learn their family's views or values. The last or maybe only viewpoint may come from a person who advocates violence, promotes racism, or is a woman hater. Families must offer a counterpoint to those distorted arguments. Example, however, is still the best teacher. It teaches either way, whether it is good or bad. Parents who themselves promote intolerance should not be surprised when their children exhibit it also. Kids, when young, want to please their parents by acting just like them. Make sure you like what they are trying to imitate. Give them a healthy example to imitate.

For all foster parents who experience some of this violence up close daily, I pray for your eyes to be always open, and your instincts to be at their peak. God bless you all.

Credits: Jo Ann Wentzel

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