Case Study – Irvington Community High School
Irvington Community High School strives to create a culture of peace for its students. However, at the start of its 2012-2013 academic year, the school was extremely concerned about the behavior of its freshman class which was averaging 32 behavior referrals a month. School leadership decided to take action to address the problem. They reached out to Peace Learning Center to help identify the problems and create a customized program to address them.
After meeting with teachers, students, and school leaders, Peace Learning Center facilitators discovered the behavior problems were a result of interpersonal issues combined with a lack of conflict resolution skills. To address these issues, Peace Learning Center designed a 12 week program for students which took place during freshmen advisory periods. Peace Learning Center also led four professional development sessions for teachers to help them understand the concepts being introduced to their students during our program. The following are the primary concepts addressed throughout the 12 week program:
- Youth Voice – Empowered students to have a voice in creating their school culture and gave them the opportunity to identify problems and possible solutions.
- Mindfulness – Created exercises to help students understand the impact of their behavior and taught them skills to better control their responses to stressful situations.
- Relationships – Helped students gain a better understanding of positive and negative peer relationships and how to treat each other with respect.
- Communication – Taught students to respond more effectively to express their emotions and deal with conflicts without violence.
- Self-awareness and Self-management – Provided ways to help students better understand themselves and regulate their own reactions and choices to ensure they were more likely to make healthy, positive choices.
The results: After Peace Learning Center’s 12 week program ended, freshman behavior referrals decreased by nearly 70%.
Tim Mulherin, CEO of Irvington Community Schools, wrote the following to describe the impact of our work: “Peace Learning Center facilitators worked with last year’s freshman class at Irvington Preparatory Academy, focusing specifically on mindfulness and conflict resolution. As part of that programming, the Act Out Social-Issue Theater troupe presented skits for the entire IPA student body, which the kids thoroughly enjoyed. (And they certainly demonstrated that they comprehended the material!) Mrs. Harmeyer, one of our IPA deans who coordinates PLC programming for us, summarized the PLC’s impact as “amazing.”
Along with the student programming, PLC provided several professional development sessions for our high school teachers. As you well know, teachers as a breed can make most any presenter anxious, but the PLC folks did a great job of quickly establishing a working relationship with them and raising consciousness about their worldviews, how this shows up in teachers’ practices, and how this can be improved through reflection and greater awareness and intentionality. An enlightening experience for all, to be sure.
I want to add that I, along with our high school deans, have visited the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility to sit in on group work with inmates led by several PLC facilitators. At the invitation of the facilitators, we not only observed but participated in the group sessions. Their connection with the kids was obvious, and the conversations were well conceived, meaningful and expertly managed. Very impressive folks.
We are extremely pleased with our relationship with the Peace Learning Center, will be working with them again this school year, and would love to have the opportunity to benefit even further from their expertise. I’m happy to provide greater detail if necessary.” – Tim Mulherin
Finally, to ensure the impact of our program continued after it ended, Peace Learning Center is now working with the school to create a youth leadership team. The members of the leadership team will be trained on curriculum to lead younger students through similar programming.