Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Schools Alone Cannot Solve This Problem

I am very proud of the fact that next Monday I will have the opportunity to attend the Governor's second annual summit on Bullying Prevention with a group of our high school students. This year we seem to have a grassroots movement in our district to combat bullying. It started last year when I happened to stumble across a Twitter Account titled @LoveHudsonIA, a feed managed by what appears to be an anonymous high school student or group of students. The premise behind the anonymous handle is to spread compliments about fellow students.

Our philosophy of bullying prevention in our school district has been blend of prevention and very stiff consequences for bullies. The education we provide is a comprehensive component of our guidance program. This program is supported with multiple meetings with students throughout the school year, which also include Key Assemblies in the elementary, and small group counseling where appropriate. When students report bullying, our staff investigates the incident and takes action to ensure the behavior is stopped and addressed. This may include counseling for the victim, consequences for the perpetrator, and often times an additional educational component for the victim titled "The Second Step Program". If you have been around Hudson for awhile, hopefully you are aware of the protocols we have in place to prevent bullying. If there are ways we can shore up the program, I encourage you to please contact the school. Additionally, if you are aware of any bullying going on in the school and have information that would be useful for school officials, you are encourage to report it here.

The data we collect suggests that our district does a pretty decent job of combating bullying, and it would appear that what we do works. But yet, we know that bullying still happens. Perhaps it is when the teacher turns their back to write something on the board, or when they are working one on one with a student. Maybe it is in the hallway when a sea of students prevent an adult from seeing the egregious behavior unfold. Or, maybe it is completely out of sight of adults altogether, and that one student that doesn't want to cause trouble just looks the other way. Yes, sadly these things sometimes happen.

This is why schools can't do it alone. The school cannot be there, and cannot see everything that unfolds in
the hallway, when the teacher turns around, in the parking lot before or after school, at the football game on Friday  night, and on the computer during a late night Twitter conversation. We need help from our families, and we need help from our students. After we screened the movie "Bully", our counseling staff encouraged students to be 'Up-standers' to stop bullying. Students have been encouraged to confront bullies en masse when they see them causing havoc in the hallways of our school. If we create a culture of intolerance against bullying, and students lead the charge--then we truly will be a school that is a Bully Free Zone. 

But will it work? That brings me full circle with the pride that I feel for this student body and the stand they are taking. After we screened the movie, a group of students approached one of our counselors to report behavior that they didn't think was part of a culture that they wanted in their school. Along with the counselor, they met with the instigators of this behavior and confronted them. That confrontation set in motion a change in behavior. The fact is, the building principal remarked to me just the other day how powerful that exchange had been. Yes we can punish, but the greatest weapon in our arsenal is the student body.

So now, the group of students who started that ball in motion at the beginning of the school year are planning a Bullying Summit of their own. On November 7th, we will be honored to host Dr. Brad Buck, the Director of the Iowa Department of Education to our school where he will give a keynote address to the student body on bully prevention. 

Our anti-bullying efforts at education, remediation and punishment will continue, but we need your help. Be an Up-stander. And for the author of @LoveHudsonIA, we don't know who you are--but thank you for all you do to create a safe and uplifting environment for the students of your school.

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