Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

If each one of us untangled one string at a time...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Every School Has a Bullying Issue. So now what?

Let me put it this way, it is highly unusual when a school doesn't have a bullying issue. The national statistic is about 30% of kids in schools say they've been bullied. After I conducted a survey in a local school (with 4th-8th graders, actually) it was, surprisingly, 30%. I say surprisingly because this is a well run school with "nice" kids.

What I thought was cool, is that the principal didn't hide from that number. She is a confident administrator who didn't get defensive. She said, "Well, then let's do something about it." My hero!

The challenge was two-fold. It's not just the "what," it's the "how" on a limited budget.

What are the goals?

• to focus on early prevention

• to engage all students in the building

• to make it positive and to empowering

• to engage teachers

• to engage parents

• to make it sustainable

• to build a foundation for growth

• to promote friendship and respect

• to provide multiple opportunities to repeat positive messages

• to make it fun and effective

Was it possible to accomplish some of these goals...with very little money?

Impossible!...until One came along.

The book is ageless and beautiful. It's message of standing up for one another resonates with children of all ages and adults. With One as the foundation, we built a One for All Leadership Campaign where the upper grades mentor the younger children by reading and working on activities with their "buddies."

Although Ms. Otoshi is extremely busy and lives across the country, she kindly designed a t-shirt for the partners to wear when they get together to talk about what it's like to Be the One. They're a team.

I highly recommend this approach. It's about prevention for the little ones and it's a teachable moment (literally) for the older students, who are quickly becoming fantastic mentors.

It's sustainable because there are other books, too, that are great tools. Kathryn has even come out with a sequel called Zero.

Obviously, it's not the whole answer. Training for the administration, teachers and parents is key and still has to happen...but it's a start. And starting somewhere is much better than standing still. One string at a time.

By the way, money for training and programs should not be the stumbling block. Organizations like National School Climate Center and Pacer have FREE training tools. But If states are passing bullying prevention laws that require training -- New Jersey being one -- hopefully, money will be attached. Parochial and private schools need training money, too. I'm just saying...


  1. This is all good in theory, but there are some very mean kids out there, and schools need better teachers as well as more serious consequences for bullying, some parents don't mind their children being bullies.

  2. Boy, do I agree! Exactly why I call it a Tangled Ball! This is not a substitution for training teachers or to create a bullying policy where there are serious consequences for kids who abuse their peers. Both things you mention are critical to really reducing bullying issues and protecting kids. My only point is that schools should and can start doing things immediately to send the signal that school climate counts. Bullying is complicated and needs dozens of solutions. I admire schools that start somewhere.