After listening to both sides, the Ryans realized there was a common player spreading misinformation.
“Once we got to that point, we felt comfortable bringing the two girls into the room together,” Jason said. “Then this beautiful thing happened. The student who thought her clothing was being trashed because she was poor and lived in the projects, found out that the girl she wanted to fight was also poor and lived in the projects.”
“And the reason this girl was always staring at her was because the girl liked her style,” Aimee said.
“So, I’m like, ‘You guys were literally about to fight because this girl digs your style. That’s wild.’ We laughed about that,” Jason said.
“We find in working with students that assumptions and misinformation are often the source of conflict,” Aimee said. “One of the first things we get our students to try to do is humanize the other person. When you can get two people to remember that they’re both human, that they have shared emotions and shared experiences, it’s a lot easier to de-escalate a conflict.”
Before the girls parted, Jason posed this question, “What happens tomorrow when you’re with your friend and she starts talking trash about this girl?” The student responded that she’d shut her friend down. “There’s power in self-determination,” Jason said, “in not letting people determine how you behave.”
There’s also power in having a Center for Peace and Nonviolence in your high school. Teachers have praised the effectiveness of the Kingian Nonviolence program, stating that it not only helps with conflict resolution, it lowers suspension rates and aids in social/emotional learning.
Students at North Providence High School who take this training form bonds of friendship with students they never would have otherwise. Three students have taken on leadership roles around gun violence and invited U.S. Rep. David Cicilline to class. They had him take part in one of the Kingian Nonviolence modules, asked pointed questions of the congressman and expressed their concern about the inaction of government leaders around gun violence.
Another student is doing his senior research project on Kingian Nonviolence, which includes compiling a listing/network of Kingian Nonviolence groups across Rhode Island so that when action is needed on an issue, the entire coalition can be mobilized.
The Ryans would like to see Kingian Nonviolence training in every elementary, secondary and higher education institution.
“The objective is to recognize that conflict is inevitable,” Jason said. “People are going to disagree. But if we can see conflict as natural and neutral we won’t be hijacked by it and escalate so quickly.”
“Kingian Nonviolence also helps us recognize that we’re more alike than different,” Aimee added.
“You may be a hip hop kid, while another kid may be into country music,” Jason said. “But when the two of you sit down together and talk about what is important to you – family, God, etc. – you discover that really the only difference between the two of you is the tempo and beat of the music you listen to.”