Schools are responsible for setting the tone of the school and keeping kids safe at school, but in order to do so they often require a sea change in how they handle reports of mistreatment, as well as how they train the kids.
- We need to train kids through programs like peer mediation, which teaches kids how to handle problems in fair ways through talking.
- We need schoolwide, consistent programs like “The Three Bees” (Be safe, be responsible, be respectful).
- We need to actively ask kids to be heroes, rather than villains. In larger schools this might mean setting up buddy programs where kids who are afraid can ask for help and get several older kids who volunteer to walk with them in “high risk” settings (between classes, after school).
- Adults need to adopt a “believe the victim” mentality. This doesn’t mean coming down like a hammer on every accused, this means LISTENING to every child. Even the bullies. Because in many cases, bullies ARE victims, struggling for control anywhere they can find it.
- Toxic school cultures like “Don’t be a tattle tale” and “Boys will be boys” need to stop. Kids need to be actively trained to treat people well. I don’t care how “innocent” children are, toddlers and preschoolers can be mercenary little bastards and while some are tenderhearted and empathetic from the get go, a lot of them really need to be actively trained not to hurt people to get what they want.
- Consent culture MUST be taught.
- Bodily autonomy MUST be taught.
- A child who bullies needs to be trained, not suspended. They need to be isolated from the child who is bullied.
- Children need to be taught to understand boundaries and be allowed to set boundaries and have their boundaries respected. This starts with things like saying “stop tickling me” and having the tickling stop. And maybe the idea that tickling without asking isn’t funny.
- We need to communicate everywhere that “We don’t treat people like that. We don’t allow people to be treated like that. We don’t let our friends treat people like that.”
- We need to teach adults to listen, to mediate, to problem solve, to look for underlying issues rather than just bad behavior.
- We need to stop punishing victims for coming forward.
The difference between life and death, between learning and depression, between functioning and suicidal ideation is not who people are, it’s how they are treated. That means that the people around them can be heroes, or they can be villains. There are no innocent bystanders.
This is true whether we are talking about trans people, LGBTQA people, disabled people, or just kids who ‘read’ to others as being different for whatever reason.Even when bullying doesn’t involve fists, it can kill. It can make people feel trapped in their situation. And the opposite of bullying is not “stricter discipline” but “more connection.”
Teach kids to be heroes.