Last fall – the Tuscon Unified School District put out new policies to deal with bullying. But will they work?
Here is the article on it: http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/32838377/tusd-looks-to-change-how-students-who-bully-others-are-disciplined.
Currently, kids caught bullying face suspension. But educators would like to try mediation between the students to see if that fixes the problem. Others want to see kids who bully get help to find out why they are so angry.
These changes come from a discussion they had with parents the previous spring about what is an is not appropriate behavior. Want to know who they didn’t talk to? Experts on how behaviors are stopped.
All the statements in the articles are based on assumptions. Assumptions about what is causing bullying and what bullying is. So let’s take these one by one and dispel the myths and talk about what might actually work instead.
Should all bullying result in suspension?
No! If the bullying comes in the form of physical attacks – then yes. That’s probably a reasonable consequence. But if one kid is calling another kid 4 eyes, suspension is probably over kill.
Bullying is a general term for a pattern of behavior that isolates and harasses another person. It doesn’t tell you specifically what is happening, only that something is happening. In general, if the harassment is verbal, you deal with it verbally. If it is a threat, you respond verbally and engage the child in alternate ways of dealing with issues AND monitor them and keep the kid who was threatened safe. If the harassment is physical you deal with it by isolating the offender. My school has a 10 strikes rule on the buses. You get referrals for bad behavior. 10 referrals and you are banned from the bus. These sorts of policies actually work.
Should bullies and victims mediate their disputes?
NO!!!! Bullying is not a conflict. It may look like a conflict, but it isn’t. It’s one person harassing another person who is the victim. You don’t ask victims of burgleries to go into mediation with thieves to “work it out.” You don’t ask rape victims to go into mediation with their rapists to “work it out.” The idea you would require a victim of bullying to go into mediation with their harasser is just horrifying. This isn’t a conflict. It’s bullying. If you are dealing with a conflict, fine, but if you are dealing with bullying, please DON”T ask the victim to agree to consenssions to get the bullying to stop. It’s just wrong.
Instead, demand the bully stop bullying. If they continue, they will get consequences. See the section on suspension – so many strikes – you get suspended.
Should bullies get anger management help?
Maybe. A bully should certainly see the counselor and be observed to see what else is going on if anything else is going on and get help as appropriate. But it’s incorrect to assume that kids who bully are angry. They might not be. There might not be anything wrong with them. They might just might think it’s funny to see someone else upset. They might be putting on a show for other kids. Anger management techniques won’t help a kid who isn’t angry.
Certainly we know that some aggressive behavior can be misplaced frustration, and kids need help with that. But are they all “angry.” No. Let’s not assume we know why a kid is bullying. What matters is that we get them to stop and that’s a behavioral problem. Yes, we should also attend to their mental health, but just attending to their mental health may not be enough to get the behavior to stop.
Behavioral Problems require Behavioral Solutions
Getting an unwanted behavior to stop is a behavioral problem that requires a behavioral solution. The solution is called “extinguishing a behavior” and it’s an operant conditioning technique. It’s what I teach. Learn it. Share it and pass it on.
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