Promoting Positive Behavior in High Schools

By Michael Stiles and Ben Tyson

Some students rise each morning anticipating another fulfilling and challenging day of high school. Others view their educational experiences differently.

Do these students perceive that the communication that takes place between them is filled with putdowns? Do they want a school climate that allows them to feel more comfortable about being themselves without fear of being judged?

The teen years are difficult for many and too difficult for some. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24, according to a 2006 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2005 survey conducted by Indiana University stated that 45 percent of students do not feel safe at school. And reports by the National School Boards Association link, at least anecdotally, the relationship between school climate and student achievement in the upper grades.

One’s lack of feeling safe can even aggravate asthma. In 2003, research analyzing the connections between victimization and absenteeism found that students who felt unsafe were more likely to experience an asthma episode.

If you look more closely at studies and research over the past decade, it appears that a lack of civility in schools is reaching epidemic proportions. As students observe their peers engaging in uncivil behavior, often with little or no consequences, the behavior is then perceived to be socially acceptable, causing the behavior to be exhibited by more students.

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