Students stop violence using philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

October 4, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived in the North Lawndale neighborhood and fought for justice there long before the students were even born. But his commitment to non-violence is the model that shapes the school's culture.

"Our particular practice is called Kingian Non-violence and out of that we have peer jury, peer mediation, peace circles," said Tiffany Childress, a chemistry teacher at North Lawndale College Prep.

Childress suggested a structure for creating and keeping peace after noting a spike in violence about five years ago.

She began the model by recruiting "peace warriors" within the school to be on the look-out for trouble.

"To be a peace warrior is basically to be a nomad for peace like you travel around and let people know that's what you do and you're basically a stand-in. You know how to facilitate peace if it's broken and how to keep it and maintain it," said Ladavia Bennett, peace warrior.

We try our hardest to keep down tension in school, in the hallways, classrooms, around the school period and me personally, I try to do it when I'm outside of school, everyday life," said Kimberly Stuart, peace warrior.

Everyone is held accountable. Students must make a public apology for disruptions.

"As we have a metric for academic achievement, we wanted to have a metric for peace. We set the goal for 90 percent, an A-minus, and we measure that by the number of days out of 170 school days out of which we've had no violence. So every year we've hit that," said Childress.

Students agree that it takes courage to stand up for peace. In a neighborhood that's plagued by poverty and violent crime, they say it's worth the effort to keep their school safe.

"I was tired of seeing violence in our school and on the streets and I wanted to change that," said Kylin Brown, peace warrior

Childress is being honored for her work in an exhibit called "Choosing to Participate," presented by the national non-profit Facing History and Ourselves. It will remain on display at the Harold Washington Cultural Center through November 11th.

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