Can you believe it? I just heard it on the news--that still at least a third of the school districts (meaning countless numbers of individual schools) in our province have not yet drafted and implemented a no-tolerance-for-bullying policy, after all this time and all this talk?
Why could this be?
Denial? We have no bullying here?
Ignorance? That’s not bullying! We haven't yet clarified the difference between freedom to speak, freedom to express personal opinion, legitimate evaluation and bullying.
Apathy? Is this our job? Will it be on the exam?
Fear? If we acknowledge that it exists, then what do we do?
Fear? Where does the buck stop? Bullying of student on student? Bullying of teacher on student? Bullying of student(s) on teachers? Bullying of adult on adult? Parent on teacher? Coworker on coworker? Supervisor on worker? Administration on supervisor?
Bullying occurs on all these levels. Bullying is abuse--abuse of the fundamental human right to dignity and respect. Bullying reflects an attitude that fear rules, that might is right, that power equals dominance. Anti-bullying builds upon countering fear, knowing where to go for help and support, clarifying existing rules and positive expectations, drafting codes of conduct, reinforcing respect for rules, laws, and individual conscience. Discussing universal ethical principles. Empowering individuals.
If I were a principal, I would:
- Call for volunteers and form a committee to draft an anti-bullying policy.
- Insist that this committee include representatives from students, teachers, parents, administrators.
- Insist that they collect or I would provide them with the relevant background information—CCC, School Act, Charter, District and School Mission statements, examples already in effect, etc.
- Set them a reporting deadline.
- Explain that their recommendations will be brought to an all-school assembly and workshopped with everyone who has an interest before any policy is finalized.
- Add that the policy should include recommendations for how to implement it to ensure success.
- Add that you expect them to use a problem-solving model and to demonstrate all the characteristics of critical thinking in their explorations, beginning with a clear definition of bullying behaviours, an exploration of who bullies and why, and ending with clear guidelines on confronting and countering bullying behaviours at all levels--individual, family, groups, classrooms, staff rooms, principal’s office, and the criminal justice system.
- Suggest that you expect the range of bullying includes everything from Columbine and teachers convicted of crimes against students to shoving, name-calling, and subtle exclusions.
- Suggest that their policy recommendations will be based upon a clearly articulated positive description of what behaviour is expected and what social atmosphere is the ideal for their school.