U of C prof studies violence

By Michael Leung

As memories of Littleton and Taber become dulled by time, questions remain unanswered. What prompted two students to murder 13 people? Why did they do it?

A new book, Building Foundations for Safe and Caring Schools: Research on Disruptive Behaviour and Violence, explores related questions and their implications.

Funded by Alberta Learning, Building Foundations is being distributed to all schools in Alberta to help those who deal directly with disruptive behaviour and violence. The book is a compilation pooled from the universities of Calgary, Alberta and Lethbridge.

Dr. Bonnie Shapiro (left) represented the U of C as an editor of Building Foundations.

"We wanted to do a project that dealt with a problem we saw as urgent and needing effort from our expertise," said Shapiro. "It was developed further as part of [Alberta Learning’s] Safe and Caring Schools initiative."

Incidents, such as those in Taber, represent the most extreme forms of Serious Learning Disruptive Behaviour. Shapiro said SLDB can also take other, less sensational forms like threats of physical, verbal, sexual, or emotional power.

According to Building Foundations, it also includes "intimidation and/or harassment by or against individuals or groups that results in physical or emotional harm or is harmful to the social well-being of an individual or group."
Building Foundations included a broader approach to SLDB.

"The project was designed to look at the nature of problems in terms of social, cultural and emotional problems," said Shapiro. "It was also designed to look for approaches that are being used in school settings that are eVective. It was also an attempt to document the nature and extent of the problems in schools."

Shapiro noted the benefactors of Building Foundations can include many people.
"Books like this are written for researchers to expand theoretical positions," she said. "It was designed to be something that not only researchers but practitioners could readily read and Þnd helpful. This will be useful for them to Þnd out what the trends are in the community as a whole and how they can develop policy within their own systems."

Another product of the project was a resource bank called The Environmental Scan of Resources for Dealing with SLDB and Violence in Schools.

"This is useful for people who need a program or want a program [to deal with SLDB]," said Shapiro, adding this may include interested parents, policy-makers or administrators.

U of C Education professor E. Lisbeth (Betty) Donaldson contributed a chapter in Building Foundations. Research for her article was conducted in Scotland, Finland and Canada.

"This project has value because comparative research studies are quite rare," she
said. "It is not a subject most countries want to highlight."

Dr. Jim Field, also an Education professor at the U of C, wrote another chapter in Building Foundations. He noted how this research might be useful regarding violent incidents like those in the media.

"This kind of resistance has the same kind of causes [as less violent behaviour]," he said. "It’s just a more violent form of expression, but the roots of it are the same. We hope that this might cause teachers to probe a little deeper and try to understand things from a student’s point of view."

For more information on the resource bank, visit the Department of Education’s website.


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