PROBLEM: How to stop school shootings?
SOLUTION: Nurturing Inclusive Community Environment (NICE)
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
-Nelson Mandela, 1 October 1995
For decades Diana Wege has been visiting schools, advocating for gun control, meeting Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill and studying what can be done to end violence in our schools and teach children how to live without conflict. In 2017 she developed, and is funding, a program entitled Nurturing Inclusive Community Environment (NICE) in collaboration with Creative Response to Conflict (CRC) and Teacher’s College at Columbia University.
Diana Wege met Priscilla Prutzman in the mid-1980’s when Priscilla was establishing conflict resolution programs through Children’s Creative Response to Conflict (CCRC) in public schools through an organization that was later incorporated as Creative Response to Conflict.
Children’s Creative Response to Conflict, created by the New York Quaker Project on Community Conflict in 1972, was “an organization that developed a practical and theoretical framework for teaching nonviolence through character and social skills development, using an innovative experiential approach incorporating multiple learning modalities.”
When Diana met Priscilla at PS 230 in Brooklyn, CCRC was working on developing peer mediation programs in urban schools with high incidence of racial bias, bullying and other issues that created a difficult school environment. This was just after the first bombing at the World Trade Center in New York.
Diana’s vision for the NICE program is to hire highly trained individuals, most with post-graduate degrees, to work in schools and counsel disenfranchised students. The East Ramapo School District High Schools, located in Spring Valley NY, were schools that fit the criteria to establish the pilot program for NICE.
Dr. Rodriquez, a Teacher at Ramapo High School commented:
“NICE is empowering disenfranchised students and changing the school culture by creating a space of healing for students and by facilitating the environment for them to raise their voices and determine their path to success; to prevent bullying and violence in our school. NICE is the answer to a need for disenfranchised students that for so long have been silent and invisible in mainstream America; visible only to mischaracterization and negative attention. The fact that students can express themselves and become visible deescalates tensions, prevents bulling and violence in school. A space of dialogue is created and bulling becomes unacceptable; such a space leads to a new change in school culture.”
Since NICE was established in September 2017, ninth grade student referrals to the principal’s office have been reduced by 66% according to an Assistant Principal at Ramapo High School. At both East Ramapo High Schools, incidences of violence and bullying are being handled, contained and de-escalated with the help of the NICE Staff. NICE also offers employment for individuals who may not be certified teachers, but have skills that the teachers may not have, such as mediation training and mental-health counseling.
What if the NICE program was incorporated into all schools?
What if the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida had had a NICE program?