I was attending a conference this week and had the opportunity to share a brief "informercial" about SocialSmarts, what we do, what my professional mission is. The presentation was for a mixed audience from different industries, with different objectives. As it turned out, one individual there was a former school district Superintendent. When I shared some of the statisitics about bullying in schools with the group, and talked about how in spite of the millions of dollars we spend on anti-bullying programs in this country our kids still have a 1-in-4 chance of being the victims of some form of school-based violence before they reach high school, most people in the audience were outraged.
The advice to me by the group was to hit the message of bulllying prevention through social skills education even harder than we had been, that this is a vital area to address in schools.
The surprising comment came from the former Superintendent. I don't know if he just wasn't paying attention earlier when I talked about bullying and its epidemic nature, but his comment was:
"Well, perhaps you don't realize that every school in America is mandated to have some form of anti-bullying program in place, whether third party or home-grown. I don't see this area as being very viable for you."
Uh, yeah. Thank you. I DO realize that schools MUST have a program in place, and many do. But, what does it say if, in spite of that mandate and supposedly having those programs in place, we still have 25% or more (it's over 33% if your kids are ages 12-18) involved in bullying and violence incidents at school?
Tells me something isn't working. It's not just enough to put something in place and say, "see, we're doing all we're supposed to do." If it's not working -- which it clearly isn't -- should we be looking for something that IS?
You just can't put discrete, disconnected policies and programs in place without relating them to everything else the students are doing and enforcing them continuously and expect anything to change substantively. We haven't made enough of a dent in the problem and it's our responsbility and obligation to keep working at it until we do. It's just not acceptable that a quarter of the kids we know are going to be subjected to some sort of harassment, bullying or other anti-social behavior. Why there isn't a greater uproar is beyond me, but I'm thinking people just don't KNOW.
I'm glad Mr. former Superintendent feels comfortable knowing that his schools in his former district have their programs in place. Would love to know how that's working for them... perhaps they had better luck with their efforts than another Superintendent I recently spoke with. Her comment:
"Anti-bullying programs. We've given up on them. They don't work."
Seems to be the case.