From Libby Conn
You can listen to this morning’s conversation about bullying here.
After the show, we continued our discussion with Dr. Jo Anne Freiberg. (She’s been such a great resource for us. You can contact her at the State Department of Education 860-713-7023.)
We talked more about how difficult it can be to define bullying and why school and state policies, though well intentioned, sometimes miss the mark when it comes to preventing harmful behavior. Part of the problem is the term itself. Freiberg advocates using the term “mean.”
Ask any parent/guardian if they are purposely raising a bully and no one will answer “yes.” Ask any child if he or she is a bully and the result is the same. However, if you survey the same group of adults and inquire if their children are ever “mean” to anyone else (call someone a name, make fun of someone, laugh at another person or tell someone they can’t sit with or play with someone), honest affirmative admissions are common. The very same child who says they don’t “bully” will admit that the very same behavior was “mean” and “not nice.”
Everyone is mean from time to time. For some reason, owning up to being “mean” is perceived to be more descriptive and neutral and far less threatening than describing the very same person or act as being “bullying.” Bullying carries heavy negative emotional baggage; mean does not. (from Bully’ is a Four Letter Word: Understanding the Concept to Manage the Territory by Jo Ann Freiberg, 2007.)
And, as always, we also got some great feedback from our listeners.
Joseph Montagna in New Haven wrote:
As a former middle school principal in New Haven, I have had the experience of transforming a school whose culture was all wrong. A school culture that is supportive of students and their families starts with the principal, the school leader. The principal has to make sure that everyone gets the message that the total child is their responsibility to develop the whole child and tend to their unique needs.
One method I used to support students is a weekly meeting of teachers, guidance staff, health and mental health professionals in the school to identify students in need of a variety of interventions. We would follow each as a child study case and keep coming back to it until a resolution is in place. This often involved the family and community. The principal has to go “looking for trouble” if she is ever to make students know that the school is supportive and open to them in many ways.
12-year-old Council wrote in too, emphasizing the need for strong leadership:
I am currently bullied at my school. A lot of people will tell you that other kids bully you because they are jealous of you, or feel bad about themselves. That’s not always the case; I’ve found it can also be because they just don’t like you. Also, the bullying doesn’t always happen in the cafeteria or the gym, I’m bullied in the classroom, even in front of the whole class. When this happens, the teachers might tell everyone to quiet down, but there has been maybe one instance where the teacher has recognized that I am being bullied.
We do have a program in our school that’s supposed to help with behavior, but guess what? It has absolutely no effect whatsoever.
It’s horrible being bullied, and it feels like I’m alone in the school with no one to talk to – there is a teacher I trust, but I hardly see her because I’m in the middle school. It comes as no surprise to me that two kids have committed suicide because of bullying.
Finally, some other good resources:
Greg Saulmon’s blog about South Hadley
US Department of Health and Human Services
An Educator’s Guide to Responding to Cyber-Bullying
The Anti-Defamation League
The Southern Poverty Law Center
If you have questions or comments about today’s show. Leave them here. Dr. Jo Ann Freiberg has said she’s happy to respond to your questions.