Guidance counselors at Wayzata East Middle School in Plymouth, Minn., designed a curriculum for teachers to use in helping students to respect each other, cut down on cliques, curb name-calling, and recognize peer pressure. "We sort of have a theme for the school," says guidance counselor Dan Daly, "and that is to treat people the way you want to be treated, examining how cliques are tough on everybody."
During a day-long retreat designed for each grade level, students gathered last year to discuss cliques, do role playing, and learn strategies to refuse pressures to smoke and drink.
"At the end we had a campfire," says Mr. Daly, "and one kid stood up holding a candle and apologized to a boy for picking on him for a couple of years on the bus. This is very powerful stuff for the kids. It stops them in their tracks. Then a group of three girls stood up and apologized to another girl for treating her badly."
Teachers and counselors have learned that the program has to be renewed each year. "The impact kind of dies out," Daly says. "Kids think critically about cliques for awhile and then go right back to what they were doing unless we keep at it."