RMS, like so many middle schools across the country, is struggling to combat widespread bullying behaviors. Many would like to think bullying is not prevalent in our community but we are not at all immune. One critical element in bullying prevention is the education of staff. The 2008 survey provided us with valuable information and a great launch pad from which to begin our discussions.
The latest research states that to successfully combat bullying behaviors all adults involved in the lives of children need to work in concert with one another. As parents, none of us want to believe that our children are capable of consciously harming another. Perhaps that's the first and foremost important obstacle: taking a step back and turning an objective eye and ear to what's truly happening with, or to our children. Students exhibiting bullying behaviors absolutely need to hear from every caring adult in their lives that bullying behaviors are dangerous beyond common understanding, and simply wrong. The link below offers some excellent strategies both for parents of the bullied, and parents of those who bully.
We're learning a lot from our students. During our regularly scheduled anti-bullying lessons students offer insight into bullying trends at RMS. Counselors, Health and Physical Education Teachers, and Administrators team up to work with groups of students to learn what the bullying looks like year-to-year and where it's taking place. Strategies to combat bullying behaviors are discussed, and sometimes practiced via role-play. These lessons are often powerful in that those students seen as most reserved and quiet are prone to open up and offer perspectives previously unknown. Many lessons teach students to appreciate differences and encourage them to take an active role in positively impacting our school culture. The lessons used to be stand-alones, but are now imbedded with the PE Health lessons each semester.
Some worthwhile assembly programs brought to RMS include Motivational Productions, and powerful speakers like Michael Fowlin, Matthew Ballace, *John Halligan, and Minding Your Mind speaker, Jordan Burnham (coming to RMS Winter 2013). All of the presentations have messages which encourage tolerance and making positive healthy choices.
*We welcome Mr. John Halligan to share the story of his son Ryan, a young man who, while a middle school student, took his own life as a result of relentless bullying. Mr. Halligan's message is incredibly powerful and eye-opening. Mr. Halligan will be coming to RMS and community Spring 2013. To learn more about Mr. Halligans presentation, and Ryans story visit:
Clearly, we need to find a way to increase the reporting of bullying behaviors. Students will not report if they do not feel safe doing so, or if they feel the (bullying) behaviors are not a big deal. And, of course there must be multiple and convenient ways to report. Quite simply, as a school community, we have to make reporting easy, safe, and important.
Each year counselors and administrators meet with students by team at each grade level to deliver a strong and consistent message. Charts that help define specific bullying behaviors, and consequences associated with those behaviors are shared and discussed. We also use this time to remind students of the various ways they can report bullying behaviors. Three locked boxes strategically placed throughout the building are designated as collection points for bullying reporting forms (and MS HOPE referral forms as well). The boxes are emptied frequently and the bullying reporting forms are processed by grade level administrators. Students can report anonymously if they choose.
Electronic Reporting Options
Students and parents now have the opportunity to access reporting forms on-line. Forms can be completed electronically and e-mailed directly to the RMS Administrators from anywhere, anytime. For more information, or to review the reporting forms visit the link pasted below.
Understanding that students will not report unless they feel safe, RMS teachers have volunteered as mentors to students. Our hope is to increase the number of students who feel connected to the school via staff members. And thus, from those relationships open and honest discussions might lead to an increased awareness of what is truly happening here at RMS.
Our students continue to be harassed on-line. There are many dangers occurring in the cyber world. Unknown predators are ever-present trying to entice students to make ill-advised connections. There are also familiar classmates who are using their keyboard and the internet as a vehicle to bully their peers, otherwise known as cyber-bullies. Students have shared with us disturbing strands of gross, vulgar, and violent text messages transmitted on-line. Another disturbing trend is the number of our students using social networking sites to expose themselves in less appropriate ways. Social networking sites (Facebook, and Twitter, for example), when misused, have expanded the arena for which students can be harassed or bullied on-line. As adults, we all need to be aware of how students (our children) are using the internet. The link below is a nice tool to learn more about cyberbullying in general. Once on this site, look for the resources link within the Navigation Menu on the left.
In order to make significant strides to reduce bullying behaviors, students need to hear the messages associated with this effort from more than one source. As stated previously, the connection between home and school is crucial. But it's also very helpful for anti-bullying messages to be delivered in school from multiple sources (various staff members and most importantly, from students themselves). Anti-bullying messages are also embedded into RMS curricula. For example, Ms. Furman's 6th grade technology classes research bullying and create power point presentations for their peers. Also in the 6th grade, the counselors discuss bullying as a part of the students exploratory cycle within the Guidance Unit. In some 7th grade Language Arts classes, students read The Misfits, a novel that depicts bullying in a middle school setting. The 7th grade also features The Outsiders which details the struggles created by stereotypes, intolerance for differences, and the absence of positive adult influence. And in 8th grade Freak the Mighty has been used as a read-aloud book in which bullying is also a major theme.
What's Next, And Where Do We Go From Here?
- We will continue to assess the effectiveness of our anti-bullying efforts by actively seeking additional ways to collaborate with parents, using our RMS PTO as a bridge. This is a cyclical process.
- We will continue the school-wide bullying lessons every school year. We will continue accessing a proven curriculum developed by Dr. Dan Olweus. Counselors, Physical Education and Health Teachers, and Administrators will continue to facilitate these lessons in pairs.
- We will continue to make reporting as safe, and convenient as possible. Additionally, on-line reporting with the option to remain anonymous will also continue, along with the ongoing assessment and improvement of forms and procedures, where appropriate.
If you should have questions, comments, or suggestions please contact Esther Purnell, Assistant Principal of Radnor Middle School.