October is recognized in our school system as Bully Prevention Month. Although we make efforts throughout the year to address issues of bullying behavior, special emphasis is given in the month of October to educate and inform students about issues of bullying and engage in activities to help students address incidents of bullying behavior.
The ROCORI School District is much like other school districts in the state in that we have multiple levels and steps that are taken to address bullying behavior. Some of what we do is required through legislation; other things we do because they are good for students.
As a district, we have a bully prevention policy which is a starting point for our activities. The policy sets the framework of what we expect within the ROCORI School District.
I would like to take some time over the next couple articles to recognize Bully Prevention Month and share information about the efforts within the district.
Our overall approach starts with the idea that bullying behaviors are not acceptable. We encourage individuals to report issues of bullying and then we address the issues that are presented—much like any other kind of disciplinary or inappropriate behaviors.
There are a number of steps we take to address the issues of bullying. We have a number of educational programs that are age and grade appropriate focused on bully prevention. We have reporting processes that we encourage students and parents to follow. We have regular reminders through posters, announcements and activities to discourage bullying behavior. We also encourage students to address the issue in proactive, positive ways.
We certainly do not encourage or accommodate bullying behaviors. As a district we work hard to be proactive by encouraging appropriate, acceptable, and respectful behaviors in students and adults. If issues are reported or observed, we take action to address the behaviors.
Perhaps the single most important issue involved in bullying behavior is to have the issues reported—to someone. Often, the most challenging issue involved in addressing situations of bullying is to have the subject or victim of the bullying behavior let someone know about the situation— especially a person in position to address the situation. Awareness of the behaviors allows them to be confronted.
We have a number of formal ways in which bullying behavior can be reported. As a district, we do have anonymous reporting processes and tip lines that can be used to provide information. More often, however, the situation simply needs to be explained to an authority—a teacher, a staff member, a counselor, the school nurse, the School Resource Officer, an administrator, or any school official.
When an issue of bullying is reported or observed, we encourage intervention in the most direct and immediate manner possible. If the behavior is happening, the most direct step is to intervene by pointing out the behavior and setting the expectation that the behavior stop. Information conveyed to our staff by Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall explains that simply stepping forward to address bullying behavior ends most of it.
Other reports can certainly be made and follow a more prescribed process of investigation. The behavior is reported and a responsible adult (teacher, principal, counselor, other) follows up by gathering appropriate information and then taking the appropriate or necessary steps to intervene.
Much like any other disciplinary issue, a reported situation of bullying begins to build a file or record of behavior. As expected with progressive disciplinary processes, the more situations reported, the more serious the consequences become. The goal from the outset, of course, is to have the behaviors stop. If the behavior doesn’t stop—or results in retaliation—the disciplinary consequences grow.
Our disciplinary approach, overall, is based on the concept of progressive discipline but is also based on a restorative model. The progressive nature means that consequences for inappropriate behaviors become increasingly stronger—the idea behind that is to address the situation and then encourage a change of behaviors. If the behaviors do not change, the consequences continue to be stronger.
The restorative approach to discipline asks, as a general principle, for students to “make things right” or make efforts to restore damaged relationships, property or other issues. This often involves taking responsibility for behaviors and then going back to fix, restore, or repay what has been damaged. In a bullying situation, restoration would involve fixing or addressing the relationship that has been affected.
Bullying behavior, especially in our age of technology and electronic means of conducting behavior, is an issue within the national and regional “spotlight” of issues. There are many efforts in Minnesota focused on this type of behavior.
The ROCORI School District takes a multi-faceted approach to addressing the issue of bullying behavior. It is a topic that we, as a district, take seriously. This week, we have reviewed the base information about our policy and our disciplinary strategies. Next week, I will look at some of the other ways we work to address situations in order to prevent or address bullying behaviors.