How to end bullying? Talk about it. A lot
Students at an elementary school in Janesville, Wis., act out bullying scenarios — like a bus ride tease — with supervisors, a sign that more educators are trying to prevent bullying rather than remediate its aftereffects.
The kids in Amanda Werner's fifth-grade class were role playing.Skip to next paragraph
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The scene: A girl on the bus was calling another girl names.
"I would tell the driver. Or I would go up to her and tell her she shouldn't say mean things to people," Payton Kahl said.
"Would you confront her?" asked student services specialist Ryan Stengl, who was leading the discussion.
"I would," Payton said.
"I would tell her to stop being mean," agreed Caleb Nelson.
Stengl wanted to make a point about confronting the bully. "If you feel safe doing that, that's probably the biggest difference you could make," Stengl told the students.
Stengl talked to the kids about bullying when they were fourth-graders. He was back to give them a refresher. All students at Adams Elementary get lessons and reminders on a regular basis. It's part of the school's overall discipline program, The Janesville Gazette reported.
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Schools these days are working to stamp out bullying before it starts, or at least limit it as much as possible. They start early and repeat the message often, said Adams Principal Sally Parks and Stengl, who sat for a separate interview.
The local effort reflects a push by the federal government, which started an interagency website, stopbullying.gov, Parks noted. An attitude of an earlier generation was that bullying happens, kids will be kids, and there's not much that can be done to prevent it, Parks said.
Now, educators intervene early, hoping students will be less likely to be bullies or victims of bullies later. Middle school, as district statistics suggest, is the worst time for bullying. Werner's fifth-graders will be in middle school next September.
"We're really teaching social skills, and the best time to learn that is early on," Stengl said.
"I don't think anyone here is a bully," Werner told her students. "But I've talked to you guys about your choices."
Indeed, after numerous visits to the class, The Gazette has seen little evidence of meanness and never an outright bullying incident.
Werner told the kids she wants them to recognize their roles when bullying occurs — do they encourage the bully by joining in or even by not getting involved, or do they do something?
"That's a tricky part," she said. "It's tricky even for adults."
Kids are taught that telling an adult about bullying is not the negative "tattling" of a previous generation. "We really need the kids on board, so they're reporting and talking to us," Parks said.
Students are encouraged to report incidents even if they aren't sure that what they saw was a problem. That message — don't be a passive bystander; do something — was not what children were told not so long ago, Parks said. The message is that if you do nothing, you're a part of the problem.