As an educator who’s been receiving student email from around the world for the past 15 years, I can tell you that kids are desperately seeking adult leadership to deal with school bullying. (See my review of the movie BULLY) The way 6th-8th graders describe it, in often heart-breaking terms, is that there is “no point in talking to teachers or the principal about this, because they do NOTHING.”
At this point, when the problem has been sufficiently identified so that everyone knows exactly what bullying is, any further talk talk talk is the same as doing nothing. Talk is cheap. School assemblies with outside speakers may not be ‘cheap’ but they do allow a school administration that doesn’t prioritize character education in any discernible way to tell distraught parents: “We’re handling it. We had an anti-bullying assembly.”
Even the most inspirational student assembly has no power to change a school culture. Not by its lonesome. Because a school’s culture is a living, breathing entity. Each school day, moment-by-moment, and each night on social media, all individuals within that school community contribute to the culture. If a school is truly serious about challenging the Culture of Cruelty you’ve got to do way more than talk. You need to call a community-wide meeting and give each stake-holder an opportunity to speak – that includes all students, teachers, coaches, administrators, support staff (bus drivers, office personnel, after school program staff, etc.). Conduct a Truth and Reconciliation session. Get real. Express the hurt. The anger. The frustration. Cop to the injustice. Take responsibility for what you’ve done and what you’ve failed to do. Apologize. Make amends. Work together to develop strategies for moving forward. Once the strategy for a culture of inclusion is in place, do not fail for one moment to foster it so it can take root and thrive.