Violence prevention was in focus March 9 and 10 at the World Peace Ikeda Auditorium in Santa Monica, California. A conference titled “Campus Violence: Lessons Learned, Strategies for Prevention” was presented by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health along with the Santa Monica Police Department.
ICAP played a central role in the conference, exhibiting a 10-minute video introducing the iChoose project to a large audience of educators, law enforcement officers, social workers, and professionals from the medical and mental health fields. The video, hosted by Patrick Duffy, iChoose co-executive producer, details the three-pronged program—a showing of the Victory Over Violence exhibition, a mini-musical performance, and small-group antiviolence dialogues between students and iChoosecast members—and its 2010 success at some 30 high schools and middle schools in the states of Hawaii, California, New York and New Jersey.
In the video, Mr. Duffy comments on how the vast majority of people who have attended the iChoose project have appreciated this “absolutely workable way to engage young people in a dialogue.” He describes the exhibition portion as deriving from the writings of ICAP founder Daisaku Ikeda, who emphasizes the importance of bringing about societal change through nonviolent means. The exhibit presents the lives of such proponents of nonviolence as Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, and makes the point that once people realize that they are empowered, they can truly make a difference in the world.
Mr. Duffy then discusses the musical portion and the post-performance dialogue sessions. He explains the fact that nearly 30 percent of the students in the American school system become involved in incidents of violence either as the target of bullies or by being bullies themselves. This amounts to some 5.7 million young people. The positive effect of iChoose at the 30 schools it has appeared at so far has been incalculable.
If the students feel they are being listened to, he says, then they will open themselves up in dialogue. They will choose. The sort of dialogue helps them figure out how to proceed successfully in their lives, to do so in a peaceful way based on mutual respect.
The two-day-long conference covered topics ranging from the lessons learned from tragic events like the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado and the recent shooting at a political gathering in Tucson, Arizona; to “understanding the relationship between exercise and the brain”; and “understanding the importance of play behavior and play deprivation as a means of prevention and risk assessment.”