Exclusion by the Group


Rejection by Peers May Lead to Violent Behaviour

In the 1940s a survey listed the top seven discipline problems in public schools:
talking, chewing gum, making noise, running in the halls, getting out of turn in line,
wearing improper clothes, not putting paper in wastebaskets.
A 1980s survey lists these top seven: drug abuse, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide,
rape, robbery, assault. (Arson, gang warfare and venereal disease are also-rans.)

- George F Will

Source: Cover, August 2005 Legal Action 7

by Charnicia E Huggins

New York - For years researchers have debated whether social exclusion and rejection caused aggressiveness or resulted from it.  Now new study findings, as well as anecdotal evidence from the recent series of school shootings across America, suggest that social exclusion or rejection may indeed lead to aggressive behaviour, as well as violence.  "Thus, children who might not have been aggressive otherwise will often become aggressive after they have been rejected by their peers," lead study author Dr Jean M Twenge of San Diego State University in California told Reuters Health.  "Almost all of the school shooting incidents, including Columbine, involved rejection by peers," Twenge said.  "This research suggests that social rejection may have played a crucial role in the violence perpetrated by the school shooters."

The researchers performed a series of experiments in which undergraduate students, divided into pairs of two, completed personality questionnaires and essays.  The students arbitrarily received bogus negative or positive feedback on both their personality tests and their essays, but were told that the essays were evaluated by their respective partners.  Each individual was then asked to evaluate their partner, who was supposedly applying for a competitive job as a research assistant.  Students who were told that the scores from their personality tests indicated that they would "end up alone later in life," and that their essay was "one of the worst" the reader had read, reciprocated by giving their partners an extremely low rating - an average 26 on a scale of 10 to 100, the researchers report.

"Anticipating a lonely future made people sharply more harsh and aggressive toward someone who had recently criticised them," the authors write in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  In contrast, students who received negative feedback about their essay but were told that they would either have "rewarding relationships throughout life," or that they were "likely to be accident prone later in life," gave their partners a more neutral rating.  However, those who were told they had written very good essays tended to reciprocate by giving their partners high ratings, even when they were given negative predictions about their future, the researchers report.

In a separate series of experiments, Twenge's team measured how rejection affected aggression.  Students participated in a group "get acquainted" exercise, and were then asked to choose the two people they would want to work with on an individual basis.  Half of the students were then told that no one wanted to work with them; the rest were told everyone wanted to work with them.  The researchers then had the students play a computer game, in which the winner was able to blast the loser with unpleasant noise.  The students were told they were playing against another person, but in fact the computer was mimicking the response of another player.  By giving the students a weapon that could hurt someone - the loud noise - the researchers attempted to make their conclusions applicable to the school shootings and other violent behaviours observed outside the laboratory.

The rejected students exhibited more aggression than their peers, study findings indicate.  They tended to blast noise that was of a higher intensity and longer duration, even when they were told it would not be directed towards the individuals who rejected them from the group assignment, the researchers note.  "Even innocent bystanders are targets of the aggression of rejected people," Twenge said.  "This is very similar to the school shootings, in which the perpetrators marched into their schools and killed innocent people who had nothing to do with the rejection."

In light of the findings, Twenge stressed the need for adults to intervene when they see students being bullied, rejected, or cruelly teased.  "Although the rejected child should be taught not to be aggressive, it is also important to start at the source and try to emphasise to children how much bullying and cruel teasing hurts," Twenge said.

Taken from Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2001;201:1058-1069

Source: Reuters Health dailynews.yahoo.com Friday 7 December 2001

See also:

bulletOur Criminal Children - The report concludes that bad parenting is the main causal link to serious offending.  It lists several initiatives, including improving parenting skills, identifying antisocial behavioural patterns and halting drug abuse as "constructive" ways to reduce youth crime...
bulletComing Face to Face with Racism - The videotape showed Eskimos in downtown Anchorage flinching and shielding their faces as they were shot at with paint ball guns by three young white men in a car, who laughed as they cruised the streets and filmed their search for victims...  The youths, a 19-year-old and two younger teenagers, appeared to be looking for Eskimos.  "Shoot him! Shoot him!", one voice on the tape said.  "You need to shoot that guy."  Another voice replied: "No.  He's Chinese..."

I think it isn't only students who react violently to rejection and exclusion.  I think terrorists are drawn from the layer of society that feels like they are excluded from the finer things in life.  (See the section on terrorism called: What a State You're In.)  Further, I think students who bring weapons to school to use against other students and their teachers also commit acts of terrorism - and for the same sorts of reasons.  And it is not just people who are affected...

Australia Fires Hit Koala Habitat

by Geoff Spencer

Sydney, Australia - Wildfires have ravaged the koala's habitat and likely killed or injured thousands, wildlife experts said Friday, as authorities arrested two more teen-age arson suspects.  It could take up to 15 years to rebuild some population groups of the koala, Australia's national icon, the National Parks and Wildlife Service said.  There are already fewer than 100,000 of the animals in Australia, the Australian Koala Foundation said.  "Koalas are vulnerable.  They are slow moving," wildlife service director Brian Gilligan said.  "No doubt many thousands of koalas have either been killed or injured in the fires."

Friday's arrests of a 14-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl brought the number of people detained on suspicion of starting fires that have burned for nearly two weeks in New South Wales to 23, including 15 juveniles.  One of the suspects is 9 years old.

Firefighters and weather forecasters predicted that the blazes, which have destroyed homes and crops and forced thousands of people to evacuate, could still be burning next week.  "It remains a menace.  I think these fires have been the most protracted I can remember in my lifetime," said Prime Minister John Howard.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on Friday sent a message of sympathy and support to the people of New South Wales whose lives have been affected by the Australian bush fires.  About 100 blazes were burning around Sydney and throughout New South Wales, generating massive smoke clouds have soared high into the sky and reached New Zealand, 1,400 miles east across the Tasman Sea.  The fire fronts cover more than 1,200 miles.

Temperatures dropped from their searing levels of recent days, giving firefighters a respite, but unpredictable winds hampered their efforts and state fire chief Phil Koperberg said rain is needed to end the crisis.

The largest fire has scorched about 160,000 acres of bone-dry forest and farmland near Singleton, 80 miles northwest of Sydney.  Another wildfire has isolated the coastal town of Bendalong, about 120 miles south of Sydney, where hundreds of people have camped out on a beach where they are safe from burning vegetation.  The only road to the town was cut off by raging flames and thick smoke, and some residents and vacationers have been evacuated by boats.

A fast-moving fire front 37 miles long was burning in the rugged and heavily forested Blue Mountains, about 50 miles west of Sydney.  Dozens of residents were leaving the tiny town of Bowen Mountain.  Residents also were being asked to evacuate parts of the Hawkesbury district on Sydney's northern outskirts.

Meteorologists said southern-hemisphere summer temperatures had dropped to around 78oF after climbing above 100oF earlier this week.

No deaths have been recorded since the "Black Christmas" fires started 24 December, but about 170 houses have been destroyed and more than 1.2 million acres have been blackened.  Officials say almost half of the fires have been set deliberately, and the New South Wales government has promised to punish arsonists, emphasising that youth is not an excuse.  The maximum penalty for adult offenders is 14 years in prison.  "Any youngster nabbed lighting a fire will not get off with a warning from a judge," said state Premier Bob Carr.  He said arsonists who are not sent to juvenile institutions would be required to meet burn victims and people who have suffered because of the fires.  "I think it would so traumatic ... they would never do it again," Carr said.

About 20,000 firefighters from around Australia have been deployed across New South Wales.  Officials said hundreds who have come from neighboring Victoria state would soon be recalled home amid fears that fires soon could break out there as well.  The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that 14 firefighters were saved when a helicopter dumped thousands of gallons of water on an advancing wall of flames in the Blue Mountains on Thursday.

Geoff Spencer is an Associated Press writer.

Source: dailynews.yahoo.com Friday 4 January 2002

The teenaged arsonists are to meet "...burn victims and people who have suffered"?  First, the article "Our Criminal Children" (referenced above) concludes that "much-vaunted family group conferences - where offenders are made to confront their victims" show that more that 25% will reoffend.  (Will the "burn victims" include dead koalas?)  Rude police and prison sentences only make things much worse, however.  The primary causes of deviant behaviour (other than rejection) seem to be substance abuse, antisocial friends and - most important - bad (or absent) parenting.  All of these are made worse by schools.

Character Counts:
A Schoolwide Plan to Promote Qualities of Democratic Citizens

submitted by David Mombourquette (NB)


bulletTo instil in children that what they do and how they do it makes all the difference in the world.
bulletTo provide opportunities for students to demonstrate the characteristics of democratic citizens: respect, caring, fairness, trustworthiness and responsibility.
bulletTo focus on positive discipline strategies that support students in taking responsibility for their behaviour.
bulletTo promote self-discipline and responsible behaviour.


Students will…

bulletBe recognised for the exhibition of these qualities through a defined system of levels (explained below).
bulletBe recognised individually for their achievements at the various levels of the program.
bulletDevelop sensitivity for their fellow classmates and community members as they progress throughout the various levels of the program.
bulletBecome more actively involved in the school and larger community.
bulletLearn how to demonstrate the various qualities of active citizens (see below).


Characteristics of Good Citizens

Good citizens are people who cooperate with others to contribute to their community and work hard to improve it.  They obey the rules and laws.  They also know about the past, participate in the present, and care about the future.

People Who Are...


bulletTreat others the way they would want to be treated.
bulletAre polite and courteous.
bulletTreat everyone well even if they look, act, or believe differently.
bulletSolve disagreements by peaceful means.


bulletAre kind with their words and actions.
bulletThink about other people's needs and feelings.
bulletGive to others without thinking about what they will get in return.
bulletBy demonstrating self-respect.


bulletPlay by the rules.
bulletAre open-minded - they listen to and think about different points of view.
bulletDo not take advantage of others.
bulletSpeak up or work to change things that are unfair.


bulletAre honest in their words and actions.
bulletDo what they say they will do.
bulletDo what they know is right, even when it is difficult.
bulletAre good friends.


bulletDo what they are supposed to do.
bulletDo their best and work hard at what they do.
bulletThink about how their actions affect others.
bulletAccept the consequences of their choices.

Elementary Levels

Level 1: Cooperative Behaviour Level (All students start at this level.)
Reasons: Cooperative (academic, social), helpful, shows respect to others, consistently gets along with others, is responsible and has regular, punctual attendance.
Rewards: weekly or bi-monthly activities (invited to attend) plus normal student activities.

Level 2: Occasional Negative Behaviour Level
Reasons: Disruptive, rude, unprepared for class or has irregular attendance/tardiness.
Consequence: loss of free time as determined by the team, these students will not be allowed to attend Character Counts activities, parents will be contacted following the weekly team meetings.

Level 3: Extreme Negative Behaviour Level
Reasons: Repeatedly have incomplete and / or unacceptable homework, displays aggression (physical and / or verbal), exhibits dishonesty, shows defiance, causes vandalism, continually hinders learning / teaching or refuses to cooperate with students and / or staff, shows bullying behaviour.
Consequence: possible in / out of school suspension or loss of free time as determined by the team. Meeting with the team to discuss what you have to do to improve. These students will not be involved in activities outside the classroom until they return to the cooperative behaviour level. A letter and / or phone call to parents to arrange a parents to arrange a parent meeting or contact other professionals.

Middle School

Level 1: You respect the rights of others and exercise you responsibilities in ways recognised by our school.
Consequence: Privileges throughout the school year, receipt of the Principal's Award at a banquet at the end of the year.

Level 2: You respect the right of others and exercise your responsibilities.
Consequence: You receive a school performance certificate, your family will receive a letter outlining your achievements, and your teacher will congratulate you.
Why: You are making valuable contribution to school life (that is, student council, peer mediators, fundraising)

Level 3:  Cooperative (entry level for all students).  Normal student privileges as per regular student life (that is, dances, plays, after school activities).

Level 4:  You have been disruptive, rude, refuse to cooperate with teachers and/or students, you have been coming to class ill prepared, your attendance is irregular and you are tardy often.  Negative consequencing commences.


Activities that assist a students progression throughout the levels include but are not limited to:

  1. Adopt a senior to remember on special holidays.
  2. Volunteer at the soup kitchen.
  3. Volunteer with the local recreation council.
  4. Organise a senior's dance / tea / social.
  5. Develop a neighbourhood senior watch program.
  6. Supply seniors with items that would help them out in their daily living.
  7. Organise a variety show fundraiser for a worthy cause.
  8. Develop a children's corner at the farmer's market to entertain children in the community.
  9. Volunteer at the SPCA.
  10. Volunteer for the Red Cross.


bulletEfficacy of the program may be measured by comparing student suspension rates prior to implementing the Character Counts program with suspension rates at monthly intervals after the program begins.
bulletAnecdotal reports provided by stakeholders within the community will serve as a measurement of how well students are accepting their responsibilities as citizens.
bulletThe percentage of students who are on undesirable levels will indicate the degree to which the entire student body has "bought in" to Character Counts

Source: parl.gc.ca

I ran across this on a Canadian website, but I could find no followup information on whether or not it was deemed a success.  If schools indeed have to be surrogate parents to students, this seemed to me to be a rational, realistic program.  I hope it succeeds and spreads.

For articles on education covering subjects taught, tests, costs, boredom, honour, rites of passage, rigid rules, cliques, thinking, learning, homeschooling, creating, brilliance, ongoing education and more, click the "Up" button below to take you to the Table of Contents for this section.

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