Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bullying: A Study in Contrast

I had another one of those studies in contrast yesterday.  On a drive to one one of QISA's Demonstration Sites in western Massachusetts, the radio carried news of Governor Patrick's signing into law Massachusetts first anti-bullying law.  Those who follow bullying as an issue will know that this comes in the wake of two students who committed suicide after allegedly having been bullied. Bullying is a serious issue and requires serious action. Law-makers and the governor took the steps they believed necessary to protect the state's children. Challenges to the law are anticipated and the grown-ups, for reasons benign and not so benign, will keep hashing this out for awhile.

At the middle school Demonstration Site, I participated in the monthly joint meeting of the adult Aspirations Team and the newly formed (this year) Student Senate.  The Senators, who represent their grade level teams, had been given the task of devising ways of catching students being good or doing right. The ideas ideas ranged from awards for respectful behavior, being helpful, etc. to be given out each term to postcard-sized certificated to be filled out an awarded on the spot.  All were oriented toward students recognizing students for being part of a culture of support and friendship.

The contrast was two fold: First, adults trying to do things to make schools safer and so more conducive to learning for kids contrasted with kids (with adult support) trying to do things to make schools safer and more conducive to learning for kids. Second, the law's focus on punishing the worst kinds of behavior in schools contrasted with the student's focus on celebrating the best kinds of behavior in school. Sadly, we probably need both approaches. My concern about the legal approach is that some bully's actually thrive on the negative attention that their behavior brings and now they are really going to get attention. My hope for the Student Senate's approach is that it will keep nurturing an environment of positive interactions--one that marginalizes bullying behavior even as the adults deal with whatever bullying continues to occur.

No comments: