Yup, I am a broken record when it comes to the question of bullying in schools. But guess what? I am proud to be a broken record.
This is too important an issue for it not to be Top of Mind for everyone involved in education. And it’s quite satisfying to see the people like Arne Duncan are driving the message home now too. Arne Duncan is the Secretary of Education in the Obama administration.
At the recent Bullying Prevention Summit, Mr. Duncan took the podium – his entire speed can be found by clicking here.
Some interesting and very pertinent snippets:
You have heard all the excuses. You have heard the lineup of reasons to minimize the gravity of bullying and to dismiss the potential of effective programs to reduce it. “What can you do,” people say, “bullying has been going on forever. Kids are mean.” Or “she just made a bad joke.” “He didn’t mean to hurt anyone.” “It was just a one-time thing.” “Bullying may be wrong. But it really isn’t an educational issue.” At the heart of this minimization of bullying, is a core belief that bullying is an elusive concept that can’t really be defined.
Every one of those myths and excuses I’ve just cited is flat-out wrong. Bullying is definable. It has a common definition, and a legal definition in many states. Good prevention programs work to reduce bullying. And bullying is very much an education priority that goes to the heart of school performance and school culture.
As I keep saying, bullying and safety in schools is an education priority – it really is the foundation.
For the record, let me state my basic, operating premise, both in Chicago and Washington DC: No student should feel unsafe in school. Take that as your starting point, and then it becomes inescapable that school safety is both a moral issue, and a practical one.
It’s a simple statement. A starting point. A foundational point.
The fact is that no school can be a great school until it is a safe school first. A positive school climate is foundational to start academic achievement.
Yup, I am an Arne Duncan fan. 🙂
What does a safe school look like? We have spent a good deal of time talking about this too. I like Mr. Duncan’s description:
What does a safe school look like? As all of you know, it is obvious from the minute you walk in the door. A safe school is one where students feel like they belong. The students feel secure, valued, and are surrounded by adults that they trust.
Safe schools also cultivate a culture of respect and caring–and have little tolerance for disruptiveness. At a safe school, students don’t curse or threaten teachers. They don’t spend most of their class time texting other students or tune out on their iPods. Students don’t roam the hallways.
At safe schools, teachers are primarily engaged in helping students learn and grow—and students, empowered by feeling safe, are more likely to feel free to explore, and even fail as they learn. At safe schools, all the building’s staff pitches in to create a culture of respect—from the teachers and principals to the receptionists, lunch room attendants and custodial staff.
I had never really thought about this as a testament to how severe bullying is – but again, this is very well put:
A powerful testament to the fact that bullying is not part of the natural order of things is that most people can remember, even decades later, the feeling of being bullied or bullying another individual. Or they may feel haunted by the memory of standing by while a friend or classmate was bullied.
The fact that those memories are seared into our brains suggests that bullying leaves long-lasting scars on children.
I strongly encourage you to read the full text of the speech. Our school board’s guiding principles are a good start. We need to be sure that these principles are in fact guiding our schools to be as safe and secure as they can be.