March 12, 2008

Safety interventions at Toki Middle School

Posted in Bullying, School policy, Student safety, Student violence at 6:40 am by madisonparent

This morning’s Wisconsin State Journal reports on increased security measures being implemented at Toki Middle School in response to parents’ concerns about the safety of their students:

Beginning today, Toki will get a second security guard and also will get a dean of students to assist with discipline problems. The guard is being transferred from Memorial High School, while the dean of students is an administrative intern who has served at La Follette High School.

….

The moves come a week after about 100 parents, school staff members and top district officials attended an emotional, three-hour Parent Teacher Organization meeting at which speakers expressed fears about safety and discipline at the West Side school.

Speakers cited an unacceptable “level of disrespect from some of the kids, lots of use of profanity, generally a reluctance to follow directions from adults and just a feeling that the building was becoming unsafe, ” [Assistant Superintendent Pamela] Nash said. Some parents reported their children were being harassed.

The steps being taken to address security and safety at Toki are likely to be welcomed by students and their parents. There’s mention in the article of the district’s Positive Behavior Intervention System, and how it’s expected to improve matters–once it’s fully implemented at Toki; it’s also noted that there’s been frequent turnover of principals at Toki, and that stable leadership will be an important element of improving the school culture. What’s not quite addressed is the question of what school administration and district should be doing on a proactive basis to address safety, security and discipline before a situation like this reaches a crisis level.

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April 2, 2007

Wisconsin school anti-bullying guidelines

Posted in Bullying, School policy at 7:26 am by madisonparent

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has recently issued its “Bullying Prevention Policy Guidelines“, including the following recommendations:

An assessment needs to be conducted to determine the prevalence of bullying, where it is happening, who is involved, and when it is happening.

Programs must be implemented K–12 and must be comprehensive in nature, including policy, curriculum, and interventions. Administrators must provide strong leadership and commitment for antibullying programs to be successful.

Policy needs to be communicated regularly to students, parents, teachers, and others. Rules against bullying need to be enforced consistently.

The climate of the school must discourage bullying.

Parents need to be educated about bullying, and they need to be involved in prevention efforts.

Quality bullying prevention programming, strategies, and resources need to be developed or purchased.

Strategies for hot spots such as buses, cafeterias, lavatories, and other locations need to be developed. Environmental redesign may need to be considered. Technological monitoring may be effective.

Training needs to be provided for administrators, teachers, and all school staff, including cafeteria workers, bus drivers, playground supervisors, and others.

The district’s computer-use policy needs to include cyberbullying in the list of unacceptable uses of district equipment.

Resources need to be identified to assist bullies, victims, bystanders, and families.

Data must be maintained regarding the effectiveness of bullying prevention efforts.

The guidelines don’t have the force of policy, but are rather intended as “guidance offered for consideration” in the development of antibullying programs in schools.

Wisconsin CESA #2 (which includes the Madison Metropolitan School District) will be offering a Bullying Prevention Curriculum workshop for elementary (grades 3-5) and middle (grades 6-8) classroom instructional units on April 20, 2007.

February 13, 2007

Students against bullying

Posted in Bullying, School safety in other places, Student safety, Student violence at 9:24 am by madisonparent

Principals say they can’t help students who are victims of bullying if the victims won’t finger their bullies. Students say they won’t finger their bullies when they expect to be met with an ineffective response by school authorities, followed by retaliation by the bully. Is there a “third way”?

Anti-bullying efforts may be more likely to succeed when student bystanders stand up to the bully and support the victim, as University of South Australia researchers Ken Rigby and Bruce Johnson describe in their article “Playground Heroes” in Greater Good Magazine (via Joanne Jacobs):

Why have anti-bullying programs met with so little success? We suggest two important reasons[:]

[….]

The first is that educators have concentrated on encouraging teachers and counselors to watch what is happening and take strong disciplinary action when bullying has occurred. Unfortunately, school authorities are commonly unaware of what is going on.

[….]

The second reason why anti-bullying programs often fail is because they are not effectively supported by children. One of the startling facts to emerge from the research into children’s behavior in recent years has been the almost ubiquitous presence of other children when bullying takes place in schools.

[….]

Once we recognize that the most effective influence on children’s bystander behavior is what they think their friends expect of them (not what their teacher or parents think), we can begin to devise ways in which positive peer influence can make itself felt.

Locally, students at Cherokee Middle School appeared before the School Board’s Community Partnerships Committee last night to describe the public service skits they have filmed, working with the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools, to educate their fellow middle schoolers on bullying and ways they can stop being passive bystanders and turn into active allies of bullied victims.

In Connecticut high schools, the “Names” anti-bullying program has been in place for over a decade under the guidance of the Connecticut Office of the Anti-Defamation League, as recently described in this recent article from the New York Times (registration required/short-term link). The program includes efforts to encourage bystanders to become allies.

In Arizona, the Arizona Bullying Prevention Partnership has launched a statewide initiative to implement Olweus bullying prevention training in elementary, middle and junior high schools.

What can we parents do?

There’s a vast array of ideas and resources available online, including:

But the first step is to stop being mere bystanders ourselves.

January 21, 2007

Anti-bullying resource

Posted in Bullying at 10:52 pm by madisonparent

Bullying Online is a U.K. charity devoted to helping students (and their parents) cope with bullying. The practical information and advice provided on its web site (including its candid assessment of “no-blame” and “restorative justice” approaches favored by school authorities in addressing bullying) are just as useful for those of us on this side of the Atlantic.