Ms. Young’s approach highlights and rewards acts of friendship. She believes that the limited resources of school staff should be spent on creating the atmosphere that they want to see in their school rather than drawing attention to the behaviors that they want to eliminate. She addresses episodes of bullying by putting together a peer support group to “make the child who’s struggling in school happy once more”. Here’s how it works: A trusted staff person interviews the child that is being bullied to identify the students that should make up the support group. That staff member finds out who is making the child’s school experience difficult, who was around when the child experienced difficulties, and who has been a friend to the child. These students form the peer support group. The trusted staff member meets with the group and asks them to help make the child’s experience at school more enjoyable. The group comes up with their own ideas – the role of staff is to praise and highlight acts of friendship. The staff person schedules separate follow-up meetings with the child experiencing difficulties and the group after a week of implementing the actions identified by the group. Further actions are determined based on the outcomes of the follow-up meetings. Ms. Young is intentional about not using the word bullying – an attempt to take the power out of the word and the action.
Ms. Young piloted her anti-bullying program in 50 elementary schools. 47 of the 50 cases saw a decrease in bullying behavior. In most cases, the bullying behavior stopped immediately. For cases that were more extreme, the program demonstrated success within 6 weeks. If you’re interested in using this strategy to address bullying at your school, please read the full article.
Robyn Ganeles, Assistant Director of Clinical Intervention Services