Feb 142013



By Katherine Ayers

Thursday, February 14, 2013

An East Carolina University professor said focusing on social and emotional intelligence as well as IQ can help reduce school violence incidents like what occurred at an elementary school in Connecticut in December.

Mark Stebnicki, a professor in the Addiction and Rehabilitation Studies department, spoke to a small crowd at the Tipsy Teapot Monday as part of a Go Science “Science Cafe” event.

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“We’re so focused on math and science, but we also need to incorporate social training and empathy,” the professor said. “We need to teach coping skills, good problem solving skills and resiliency.”

Stebnicki, a Licensed Professional Counselor, said he was part of the Crisis Response Team to responded to the 1998 Westside Middle School shooting in Jonesboro, Ark., where an 11 and 13 year old killed five people and injured 10 others.

“It’s unimaginable how a 11 and 13 year old could plan and plot an incident like that,” he said. “Now Sandy Hook a stark reminder of how we need to be vigilant in prevention efforts against school violence.”

The professor spoke about a “Youth Risk Continuum.” He said it’s easy to recognize students on the high end of the scale, those that have high anger impulses, curse and swear, and issue threats to others, but it’s important for schools to notice children on the low and middle end of the spectrum as well.

“Kids get lost in the shuffle, especially the bad kids,” he said. “People aren’t recognizing that this is a youth at risk, this is someone that needs someone to model good school attendance and good emotional and social skills.”

He said some “progressive” schools are now using “mindfulness approaches” – deep breathing and meditation – to deal with non-positive behavior before it escalates.

“If you calm down the physiology, then you can calm down the behaviors,” he said. “It’s a mind-body connection.”

Stebnicki said K–12 school systems should employ a Threat Assessment Team idea that’s already used on college campuses.

“It’s a group of individuals that can get ahead of things and identify which kids might be a risk,” he said.

The group could include nurses, campus mental health services, the dean of students, a psychologist, other school administration as appropriate and folks with the office of student disability services.

The professor said that it takes all members of a community to root out school violence.

“It shouldn’t just be reaction and response, it should be prevention,” he said.

People also need to keep school violence in perspective.

“Your kid will have a much better chance of becoming an alcoholic or having a chronic disease before age 35 then they will of being shot at school,” he said. “As we have our eye on gun violence, don’t ignore all these other issues with your children.”

Contact Katherine Ayers at kayers@reflector.com and 252-329-9567. Follow her on Twitter @KatieAyersGDR.

via The Daily Reflector.


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