By Sheila LyonHall
The article by Mike Terry titled “Bullying: A Problem that Resists Being Resolved” is excellent. It is comprehensive, enlightening, and thought-provoking. Yet it begs the question: “Why is the California Department of Education being given two years to come up with a Protocol for schools to address student mental health challenges, including Bullying.
The ongoing need to better deal with the mental health needs of students is absolutely needful, without a doubt. But this is not the case with Bullying on school grounds. After all, many policies, authorities, and checks and balances are already in place to deal with Bullying at school.
But in most cases, they are simply not used to the full extent of their efficacy.
The LA Unified School District makes a grand statement about Bullying. It declares its commitment to the safety and wellbeing of students. “Every school district should be a Bully-Free Zone.”
Of course, this is just what one would expect a school district to declare. But “Where’s the Beef?” Where’s the Muscle behind the Declaration?
“Every schoolhouse in California will be a Bully-Free Zone!” Now that’s a declaration everyone can rally around. The Promise and the Commitment to the Promise are clear.
It is not enough to give lip service to a righteous cause but fail to undertake Actions that move the Needle toward Change. Genuine Change in any situation requires a different Mindset than the one that fosters the status quo.
Bullying requires a paradigm shift in School Culture. That process begins with a scrupulous examination of three unanswered questions where Bullying is allowed to hide out and thrive.
1. How is Bullying experienced by its Victims on school grounds?
2. How is the behavior of Bullies misdiagnosed or minimized by school officials?
3. How is Bullying perceived and reacted to by students who witness Bullying?
No child of any age should endure the terror of emotional, mental, or physical abuse while at school. This is particularly true of students who spend a large portion of their day on school grounds where Parents and Guardians (their primary Protectors) are absent.
There is but one area where a “Stop the Bullying” Protocol does not now exist … Schoolhouse Culture. There is no Protocol to Change the Culture of our Schools to ensure the safety and well-being of all students.
The California Department of Education must infuse the new Mental Health Protocol with enough muscle to effectively “Change Schoolhouse Culture.” Only this will support the eradication of Bullying and ensure the safety and well-being of all students.
The California DOE has a two-year window of opportunity to Reimagine and Create effective ways to best serve the mental health needs of students. The goal is to establish a school environment where students thrive in the education process … and do not worry about surviving the day without being bullied or worse.
This requires a Protocol to transform Schoolhouse Culture into an environment where Bullying cannot exist.
Bullying is a mental health issue and should be clearly addressed in the new Mental Health Protocol. The process of educating students can no longer be exclusively focused on learning. We must create school environments that fully support the safety and well-being of every student on school grounds.
Once the Protocol to “Change School Culture to Eradicate Bullying” has been created, it must be taken “under the wing” of Leadership in every schoolhouse. Principals, teachers, school staff, and student bodies must commit to the Protocol and be rigorously held accountable for its successful implementation.
Changing the Culture of any environment takes time, a solid commitment to the Change, and meticulous Accountability by all involved in the Culture. The following are suggestions to implement Protocol to eradicate Bullying on school grounds.
Principals must take full responsibility and accountability for the implementation of the new Protocol. They must begin to view their role with a Servant’s Eye and not a Monarch’s Mentality.
Teachers and school staff must see themselves as Frontline Managers of the new Protocol, fully committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all students.
Victims of Bullying must feel confident that there is an effective structure at school to protect them from Bullies. Their coming forward to report and seek help should be met with immediate action to Stop the Bully and restore the Victim’s sense of safety and well-being.
Student bodies must be taught that their reaction to the Bullying they witness will promote or repel Bully behavior. Responding with Laughter, Insensitivity, or the Silence of Consent will reward Bully behavior. Student onlookers must be held accountable for their participation in the Bullying process. Students must be required to report the Bullying they witness and be assured their identity will not be revealed.
Potential Bullies must be identified early on. Students who exhibit early signs of aggressive behavior must receive effective counseling. Active Bullies must receive the counseling and treatment they need to break the cycle of Bullying. Parents of Bullies must be advised and kept abreast of the counseling and treatment their child receives.
Parents who report Bullying to school officials must be promptly and effectively responded to.
This is how we will Change Schoolhouse Culture, Eradicate Bullying, and secure the safety and well-being of all students.
Sheila LyonHall is the author of several books, including the E-book, “Bad Choices in Dark Places.”