Long May it Wave: A flag went up at Maple Point Middle School recently, and if students and school officials have their way, it won't come down until next spring.
The 1,050-student school in Langhorne, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, kicked off its violence-prevention program last week by raising a "Fight-Free Flag" in front of the building.
The flag will remain flying as long as there are no fights at the school. Should one occur, the students who were involved must take down the flag for a day. The goal is to have the flag flying for the entire school year without interruption, said Principal Ray Kelly.
Last year, the flag came down 10 times, a marked change from the early days of the 7-year- old school, according to Mr. Kelly.
"We had a lot of violence—fights—in our first year," he said.
Although students who fought at school were often cited and fined by the local police and suspended for up to five days, the punishments did nothing to quell the problem.
Eventually, the school created an anti-violence program that included anger-management exercises and peer mediation for conflict resolution.
"These were major themes to stamp out violence," said the principal. The impact was immediate, Mr. Kelly said, estimating that violence has dropped 90 percent.
Students take pride in the knowledge that they work together to keep Maple Point violence-free, he noted.
Maple Point's efforts earned the school top honors last year as the Neshaminy district winner of the Violence-Free Youth Challenge, a statewide contest sponsored by the Pennsylvania health department.
Other schools in the 11,000-student district are beginning to follow Maple Point's example by creating their own violence-prevention programs.
"The schools are in different stages," Mr. Kelly said. "We're just waiting for them to get to where we are."
—Adrienne D. Coles
Vol. 20, Issue 5, Page 3