Anti-Bullying Ideas to Make Our Schools Safe
As the mother of a bullied child, bullying is something I take very seriously. I'm glad that bullying is getting a lot of attention in the news lately. Anti-bullying ideas are greatly needed. It affects a lot of kids, either as participants or observers, and I think a few small changes could make a big difference, particularly within the school system.
Our two older boys had very little experience with bullying, but sadly our youngest boy has had plenty of it. I'm not just talking a little bit of teasing or kids just harassing him, I'm talking major physical and emotional bullying and intimidation. There has been many different incidents from multiple attackers over a period of nearly two years. And all this before he was even ten years old! Just thinking about it makes me physically ill.
And we live in a "nice" neighborhood on the "good" side of town. These aren't poor kids of low-income working parents, these are kids of well-educated, church-going parents, who live in nice houses, and have good jobs.
I was very involved in the resolution process and had meetings with the teachers, the principal, and even the school superintendent. Everyone involved including the principal and the school board, tried to put a stop to it, but nothing they did was particularly effective. They did expel one of his most persistent attackers, but since there were multiple boys and they were smart enough to act when supervision was minimal, the torment continued through most of the 4th and 5th grade. Mysteriously in the 6th grade, most of it stopped, and so far in junior high, he's been just fine. Who knows?
Anyway, I promised you some solutions. As a front-line participant in all of this, I think I've got a pretty good perspective. Let's start with the victims. Part of the fear and frustration of being bullied is that victims don't know who or how to report the problem to. As a result, victims are sometimes not believed or aren't taken seriously.
What if there was a way kids could report bullying consistently and anonymously, every time an incident occurred? What if teachers set aside a few minutes at the end of the day when kids could come to them anonymously to report any bullying incidents throughout the day? What if the teacher was required to create a written report of any incidents to be passed onto a weekly bullying task force? That gets the problems out into the open.
Who would make up this task force? The kids. Kids are quite capable of disciplining each other fairly, when given the training and opportunity to do so. If there was a council of 5 or so older students, with faculty supervision, who could meet for an hour or two a week to hear the facts, determine the guilt or innocence, and hand out the appropriate punishment, I think kids would take them a lot more seriously. It makes more of an impression if your peers disapprove of your behavior, than adults who seem to be always criticizing kids anyway.
If these same kids were given the same authority as playground aides to deal with any horseplay or bullying, that would multiply the amount of supervision available on playgrounds and buses, in restrooms, and in lunch areas—all prime real estate for bullying incidents. They wouldn't be given authority to punish on the spot or to physically intervene, but if they had the authority to tell the bully to stop, and to report the incident to a teacher or principal, that would help a lot.
Another problem is that the current punishments are ineffective. As my son's case shows, nothing the staff did put any particular damper on the abuse. The typical chain of punishment goes:
- Reprimand from teacher, and a possible note home
- Sent to think time, or time out.
- Detention or other after-school or recess punishment
- Sent to Principal, Vice Principal, or Nova Officer for a talk
- Parents called
- In-school suspension (required to sit in a lower grade classroom for part or all of the day)
- Out of school suspension—usually for a day or so, rarely for longer unless a weapon is involved
- Expelled—requires a school board hearing and a majority decision by the board. Then they simply start over at a new school with a whole new batch of potential victims.
These can vary depending on the school official involved, the age of the child, or the severity of the behavior. But what I don't see is anything about actually teaching the bully anything about how to change his/her behavior.
Here are some ways this could change:
- Reprimand from teacher or student council
- Write 1-4 page report about the effects of bullying plus a public apology to the victim.
- Watch an anger management or anti-bullying film and a written plan for behavior change.
- Mandatory half-day anti-bullying class (preferably on a Saturday)
- Mandatory referral to a therapist for at least 1 month of treatment plus virtual restraining order from any know victims. No contact with the victim(s) until released by therapist.
- Expelled—either to home schooling, or to a juvenile facility. Not allowed back in school for six months and only with approval of a therapist.
Have you or your children been bullied, and if so, how did you get help?
Photo courtesy of flickr
Adrian's Crazy Life is just that, bits and pieces of my crazy life—my job, my three fabulous boys, my papercrafting business, my four grandkids, the whole enchilada. I'm always going 90 miles an hour with my hair on fire, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
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