The Phoebe Prince story still has me reeling. And unfortunately it's not the first suicide of a young teen that has had me perplexed, horrified and saddened. It's so preventable... but where do we start?
I have had two very good experiences in schools over the past week: one small Catholic elementary school and a fairly large public middle school. In the former, I gave a parenting workshop on bullying and online safety. My theory is that both have to be addressed at once. It's one world -- schoolyard to cell to home computer -- for kids. Although adults tend to think of being online and offline, it's one line for kids.
Treating peers well, therefore, is an option no matter where kids are at the moment. Notice I said, "treating peers WELL is an option." In my experience, if you make kids feel like a hero, they will rise to the occasion. Especially if you start early.
Bullying and cyber bullying are out of hand. Where do we start? Community by community until a national leader(s) steps up to create a thorough national campaign that makes treating others poorly very uncool.
That brings me to the second school. I was impressed. A young principal and his assistant principal and other interested professionals in the building became aware of cyber bullying. They pulled out all the stops. Sent numerous email blasts regarding to make parents aware, had a representative for the local district attorney's office come to speak to all 1500 of the students and then held a parents' meeting at night. Turnout was fairly low but that's not the point. They held it not knowing what the turn out would be. And they encouraged those who did come (in all fairness, a big snowstorm was coming) to get involved and HELP the school HELP the kids.
That's putting yourself out there. And that's what we need. Schools to be open and say, "Everyone under the tent. We're in this together."
It's no one's fault that there's a generation gap but it is our fault if we recognize the gap and don't try to close it.
As a first step, I ask all schools to do what this school did. Put it out there, start the (tangled) ball rolling. For schools that don't know where to begin, put together an objective (or as objective as humanly possible and be a parent) committee to start doing research for the school. The goals of the committee could be researching good resources, including speakers, free, age-appropriate, researched and downloadable product, thorough programs such as Olweus that involve the entire school community -- including parents, lunch ladies, teachers and coaches. Whatever fits the personality, mission, and budget of the school. Speaking of budget, a secondary goal of the committee could be to raise funds for high-quality programs.
Caution: The committee should act as an information gatherer not a complaint department for individual incidences.
Hosting events that train parents on research-based solutions would be a huge step in the right direction.
You catch my drift (the snowstorm made me say that). Start somewhere. Parents and witnesses/bystanders are a good place to start.
To help get you started, click on prior post: Helpful Links. Here are just a few that endorse wholeheartedly. If you want more, let me know.
And Congratulations to both schools. You're brave but you won't be sorry.