The rationale is that fictional violence encourages real violence and, as such, cannot be allowed. The school must be safe, safe even from the idea that violence exists. Yet every study on the subject tells us that there is a negative correlation between fictional violence and real violence. The violent fantasy allows children to explore the existence and consequences of violence. When you see a fictitious character writhe in pain, you’re more likely to want to avoid causing that same pain in a real person. The simulated situation also forces them to consider when, if ever, inflicting that pain is justified. Certainly not because someone is different, but maybe if that person were otherwise going to hurt someone else? They have to consider and decide. Pictures and stories and games about violence actually make us safer, and, as such, deserve neither condemnation nor prohibition.
It makes sense to have stringent rules against assault, real assault, if only to make it clear that the community simply will not condone such behavior. But such rules alone aren’t very effective at reducing such bullying. One of our parents is an anti-bullying trainer. She teaches that the best way to reduce attacks between students is to foster a culture of respect and equality, while de-emphasizing authority and hierarchy. In short, she says, to make it more like a Sudbury school.
Each Sudbury school will handle issues of violence - both real and simulated - as their community sees most fit. Here at Mountain Laurel, we don’t trust zero tolerance. Fictitious violence is allowed free rein, but we have a three strikes rule for actual violence. No more than three assaults will be allowed before the student is expelled. That number is only to give us leeway based on the circumstances. Given the severity, the first attack might well be the last before expulsion.
We’ve had a remarkable track record with our policy. The respect and lack of hierarchy make bullying extremely unlikely. After all, there’s no rank or place to establish. We’ve had only one problem child in terms of violence, and, sure enough, he no longer attends.
We won’t tolerate aggressive acts. We’ll tolerate most anything else.