The Golden Rule Approach to Aggression

The following is a working document that can be included in the student handbook (code of conduct). This introduces a logical and moral approach to managing social aggression amongst students and staff. Please feel free to use part or all of the document and edit to your liking. This is just a guide to help you promote the Golden Rule and effectively handle aggression on campus. -Brooks Gibbs

Dear Parents,

A Golden Rule Approach to Aggression

"Treat others the way you want to be treated."

We love the Golden Rule and believe it contains incredible wisdom to help our parents, students, and staff live peaceably with one another.  

It is our aim to minimize conflict and promote the safety of students. As the school administration, we believe that the following approach to dealing with aggression is in the best interest of our student’s wellbeing and campus culture. It is based on ancient wisdom, moral philosophies, and researched-based psychological principals for responding to aggression and resolving relational conflict. We look forward to partnering with you in teaching your child how to appropriately handle conflicts while promoting peace at school, at home, and in the community.

Please consider the following goals, and see if you share them:

We want our children to:

  • Not be easily upset by words or insults
  • Learn to solve social problems on their own without the constant intervention of authority figures
  • Know that they are not perfect and be able to take/make a joke about themselves, demonstrating emotional health
  • Be unfazed by pushes and shoves that do not cause pain
  • Be happy with a few quality friends and not feel the need to be approved, accepted, or pursued by everyone
  • Have the self-confidence and social skills needed to navigate non-criminal aggression on campus and online

With these goals in mind, we have drafted a logical and Golden Rule approach to dealing with social aggression on campus.

When a child needs to be punished our goal will be to deter negative behavior, ensure restitution to the victim, and preserve reconciliation with all parties involved. We believe that the following Golden Rule approach to aggression helps us accomplishes this goal.

Through our united efforts, we can raise young citizens to be great leaders. Thank you for joining us as we work together to build a safe, productive, and peaceful educational environment.

The School Administration

A Logical View of Aggression and Conflict

Since the beginning of time, conflicts between people have occurred. Both history and modern- day narratives show a consistent display of aggressive behavior as individuals attempt to gain power and dominance over one-another. Despite countless attempts to achieve peace, man has not been able to create an environment void of conflict or disagreements. Such a task is truly impossible. Unfortunately, friends and enemies exist in all areas of the globe.

In the present day, it has become common for parents to expect a guarantee from their child’s school that their educational experience will be free of aggressive behavior and social challenges. While we strive to be our best, we understand that this expectation is unrealistic, as this has never been achieved. We are not only educators, but parents as well. We have not discovered to cure to sibling rivalry, and we are confident we won't discover the cure to student aggression. We understand that promising that the school environment will always feel perfectly friendly is a promise that we cannot keep, just as parents cannot promise a home environment that will be perfectly friendly. Instead, we have crafted the following plan on how we will handle aggression in a way that is both realistic and helpful. While it's not a cure for conflict, we believe this approach dramatically cuts down conflict at school and at home. We encourage you to adopt this approach and try if for yourself.

The Golden Rule Approach to Aggression and Conflict

“Treat others the way that you want to be treated."

The Golden Rule does not tell us to "treat others the way they treat us." In other words, we are not instructed to be mean to those who are mean to us. We are in fact, told the opposite. We are instructed to treat others the way we want to be treated, which of course, means to treat others like a friend and not an enemy.

The Golden Rule was created to teach us how to respond to our "enemies". It instructs us to treat them with friendliness despite the way they are treating us. It doesn't mean we have to be friends with them, but it does mean that we must be friendly to them, even if we don't like their behavior. The Golden Rule allows us to punish students for wrong behavior, but it instructs us to do so with empathy, compassion, and employ logical consequences... the same way we would want to be treated. Therefore, the Golden Rule not only is an instruction for our children to behave appropriately, it is also an instruction for authority to punish appropriately.

As an educational institution, we see conflict as a teaching opportunity. We believe that both teachers and parents play an integral role in helping our students grow not only academically but also socially and emotionally. Our school has dedicated instructional time and resources to support these efforts. As with other subjects, like math, science, and social studies, we know that some students will find these lessons and life’s tests in these areas to be especially challenging. Despite its importance, time dedicated to this topic must be balanced with other learning objectives within the school day. Students that find significant struggles in this area may be best served through additional supports. Please know that our staff is committed to equipping students with skills so that they might be empowered to navigate these situations effectively and over time, master the ability to solve social problems on their own. By reducing the number of social conflicts and the time spent intervening, our staff can spend more time teaching and students can spend more time learning, therefore bettering each child’s educational experience.

We have chosen to approach the punishment of aggression through the filter of the Golden Rule. We are asking children to live by the Golden Rule, and we also must punish by the Golden Rule. In other words, we must punish the way we would want to be punished. If we break this fundamental rule, the punishment becomes immoral and could possibly hurt the situation more than help.

Discerning Types of Aggression

The word “bullying” is a confusing term to discuss aggression. It is often misunderstood, misused, and the definition is ever-changing. As a school, we are committed to using clearer language to describe specific behaviors so that we might better communicate with one another and find practical solutions to any problems that exist. We encourage you to use specific language (such as name-calling, rumors, jokes, etc) to describe behavior normally referred to as “bullying” with your student and school staff. Calling a child a bully is a degrading judgement term and in violation of the Golden Rule. We call children by their names and we label their behavior appropriately without degrading them.

Handling Non-Criminal Verbal Aggression 

Non-criminal verbal aggression that causes subjective harm (behavior that is aimed at hurting someone’s feelings) is a violation of our Student Code of Conduct, which promotes positive and moral behavior. While our students have the right to free speech, we ask that they treat others in a way that is friendly to build a positive campus culture.

Punishing non-criminal social aggression (like name-calling) has been proven to increase hostility, increase victimization, and perpetuate negative behavior. Therefore, staff will empathetically work with all students involved to learn from the situation and we will do our absolute best to empower both sides to implement the Golden Rule in their future interaction. While we cannot enforce that students live morally or according to the Golden Rule, we can do our best to help the child that feels like a victim by empowering them with practical resilience techniques that will make the mean negative words of others become ineffective at hurting their feelings. In the long run, building up their resilience as opposed to enforcing niceness is a superior approach to helping children who suffer from the emotional pain that  words can sometimes cause.

Handling Non-Criminal Physical Aggression

Non-criminal physical aggression that does not cause pain (such as horseplay or pushing and shoving) is not a punishable act due to the nature of children. Sports by definition, includes organized physical aggression and we believe children need to learn how to endure the normal pushes and shoves that come with this type of healthy play.

Acts of physical aggression that causes pain are a violation of our Student Code of Conduct. When a child causes pain to another child, we will take the incident seriously and punish appropriately in a way that is governed by the Golden Rule.

Handling Criminal Aggression

Criminal behavior (such as physical assault, battery, stealing, vandalism, destruction of property, or threats thereof) are a violation of the Student Code of Conduct and the law. Students that break the law may be subject to additional punishment outside of school such as criminal charges from the police and the court system.