‘Zero Tolerance’ of bullies? Hungary’s schools offer another response to conflict mediation

As school boards, state and local governments draft legislation to respond to increased reports of bullying, the term “zero tolerance” often comes up. When New Jersey recently implemented its sweeping “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights,” the “zero tolerance” formula appeared in several news reports.

I posed a question to a restorative justice discussion group on LinkedIn.com, asking if a zero tolerance approach is the wisest choice for conflict management. Not surprisingly, the RJ practitioners and volunteers who responded were unanimous: No, it is not the wisest approach.

One member, writing from London, England, pointed me to a video — Intertwined –produced by a school-based conflict management program in Hungary. When he added that the video includes English subtitles, I gave it a click, and I include the link here and embed the video below.  The fairly fast-paced video includes a lively music track.

Readers who are familiar with restorative practices will immediately see those practices acted out in the various scenarios by the students and faculty. Instead of isolating, stigmatizing and expelling troublesome students, the program emphasizes creating an inclusive climate through peer support and engagement. Conflicts aren’t ignored or dismissed, but they are not reflexively handled through heavy-handed discipline or ostracism.

Special thanks to Martin Wright of the Lambeth Mediation Service, and contributor to the website RJ Online.

Intertwined – community conflict resolution in school from Balazs Benedek on Vimeo.