Sunday, November 28, 2010

Anti-Bullying Intervention

I've wanted to write about this topic for sometime, but haven't had the chance. Oddly enough, by waiting I have a different angle and more material about this.

There's been a heightened state of attention on bullying in the media, due to the suicides that came about from bullying across the country.

I've been very pleased with my daughter's elementary school for strongly promoting an anti-bullying agenda starting with KG. They used to make posters, learn about different words they could use to battle the offenders (e.g., "when you say that, I feel hurt") and how to take recourse. They recognize the bullying as not just physical, but verbal. The 3rd graders had "lunch bunch" in which a small group of students had lunch with the guidance counselor and they discussed friendships and relationships. The school encouraged us to continue the conversation at home.

Recently there was an incident with a girl C. She is fairly new to the school as she joined the spring of last year. Now, she's in my daughter's class and she started circulating a sign up list for an "Annika X" club against my daughter. My daughter told me that all her good friends said no and they told her about it. One of her friends said she'll join as a 'spy' and take the information back to the guidance counselor. Annika is a confident, independent and social girl. So, she was initially comfortable with this because her friends supported her.

I stepped in and told her I'm going to contact her teacher and guidance counselor and her friends should stay out. I pointed out that today C has a list against her. However, tomorrow she could create a list against another friend (I named a really sweet and shy girl). All of a sudden, Annika understood that this could happen to someone else for no reason. Something kicked in and she was after me to send that note immediately.

I sent an email to the teacher and guidance counselor; the teacher was upset this had happened on his watch. The student C was taken to principal, and the guidance counselor talked to Annika. C was obviously upset and crying. The teacher "isolated" her in the classroom that day.

However, rather than creating resentment between the girls, the school is encouraging them to be friends. They are back at the same table. Annika told me that C's mom wants her to be friends also. This is still early in the year and hopefully things can smooth over.

People always talk about how mean girls are to each other. It obviously comes from jealousy and insecurities. I once watched MTV's "If You Really Knew Me" series ("The Breakfast Club" meets reality tv) and one of the girls bragged how she was "the mean girl". To me, I saw a girl that is hurting inside, which is why she was so negative and abrasive. When she opened up, she revealed a broken home and feelings of loss. The meanness and tough attitude is just a symptom of deeper problems within. Girls don't have to be mean by nature. They have to be helped.

As I said, C just joined the school last spring and she doesn't have the existing relationships the other kids have since KG. She was probably jealous and needed to make her own stand in the social structure. I'm glad that we really have to step up and intervene early. In 4th grade, they can just pass around a list like this. In a few years in 6th or 7th grade, they could post a list like this on Facebook or Myspace.

Maybe all this early "anti-bullying campaign" will work or maybe it won't. There are probably deeper problems kids have that can't be resolved so easily. However, i do think it's something worth trying to create the group effort not to accept certain behaviors.


J.Doe said...

I hope that whatever school that I send my daughter to has an anti-bullying agenda that starts even in KG as I see my daughter more as a probable victim of bullying rather than a bullier. Perhaps I'm wrong about that since she is not even 3 years old and even though she is much more shy among her peers and even with adults than they are, she might just be too young to make any personality judgments on at all. Still, bullying is worrisome. Especially when they do get older and can use Facebook or whatever.
I hope A and C can become good friends.

Indigo B. said...

JD - you're right though about being able to predict her personality at this age. I know A was extremely independent and knew what she wanted at 3. I thought all 3 yr olds were like that. So, I was surprised when she had to go to the daycare director's office for not listening and doing her own thing. Oh. We're still working on the listening and following directions thing. :-\