Some schools are coming up with some innovative programs to address it:

Eric Hansen, principal of the White Pine Middle School in Ely, Nevada, has also devised novel techniques. The school is in a copper mining area and the pupils are relatively tough. When Hansen took over the school four years ago, there was mayhem among the students and backbiting among a discontent staff. He started by educating the staff. “It was a toxic environment and I wanted to transform the culture. I talked to each staff member, encouraged them to bond, to go to each other’s homes, attend weddings, bring food if they suffered a disaster. Then I assigned each student an adviser—the nurses, the librarians, the janitors were all tapped—and they met with their students every day. In other words, we became a family.”

Hansen then took an anonymous poll of all the students, asking them to name the biggest bullies in the school. “I brought them in, told them they had been identified by their peers, and we were there to help them. We asked them how they felt about their peers’ opinions and asked them if those opinions were fair.

“Most of them admitted to their bullying. Those that didn’t had to report to us each day and were required to do or say something nice to someone. We got the parents involved and made sure that the problem children felt they were safe, accepted, and listened to.

“ You know bullies are kids too and often there is a reason for their behavior,” Hansen continues. “They have a tragedy at home, not enough to eat, bad parenting. It is crucial that we pay attention to them also.”

Update: Another perspective, via Athenae.

3 thoughts on “Bullying

  1. In an indirect but real way, this story shows what’s wrong with the high-stakes test culture — a lot of the work of schools goes beyond what you can measure on a fill-in-the-bubble test. Helping kids grow up to be decent human beings is critically important.

    But the constant pressure to do better and better on each year’s tests takes schools’ attention and energy from this task. A lot of us seem to be under the impression the purpose of public schools is to create workers (among the big bloggers, Matt Yglesias, Dana Goldstein, and now it looks like Ezra Klein) — but it is really to create citizens for our democracy (or what’s left of it). That means modeling what it means to be part of a community, teaching cooperation and compassion and respect, and acceptance of difference.

  2. Bullying is not limited to schools. Many work places suffer from a plague of bullying. The British have grabbed the bull by its horns and addressed the problem heads own. In the US, backward as usual but alway “we are number 1,” bullying within the government itself is widely spread with absolute support of management even when cases go to court.

    We will do better if we address the problem on a nation-wide basis and on all ages.

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