Students Called on for Anti-Bullying Effort
A Greendale task force is recommending a student-led program to help find solutions to harassment and bullying.
A task force focused on climate and culture issues in Greendale schools hopes students will lead the charge against harassment and bullying.
Among several recommendations the task force presented to the Greendale School Board last week was for a student-led climate and culture program. What it will look like depends on the school and what best fits its needs. But task force members say students are more receptive to receiving information from their peers and should be out in front of the anti-bullying effort.
"Students are a key part of this," said Alison Julien, who served as a co-chair of the task force. "It became very clear to us that the students felt that the most effective things would be student-run, student-led, student-peer mentoring."
One component could be a restorative justice program, which would work in conjunction with disciplinary systems already in place.
Restorative justice would force a student who did harm to another student to face that person and discuss what happened. Trained student facilitators would lead the discussion.
Bullying is "so easy to do in a text, so easy to do on the Internet when you don't have any idea how that student is responding," said Sue Castro, the task force's other co-chair. "Students need to see how it affects the people they harmed, and it can be very powerful."
The task force also discussed a student leadership program that would play a variety of roles within schools, such as identifying negative traditions in schools and educating peers on Internet etiquette and how to respond if they witness bullying or harassment.
Josh Bartelme, a student representative on the school board who was also involved with the task force, said he and others appreciated including students in solutions to bullying problems.
"A lot of times students feel that the problems that we face get solved by people elsewhere and the solutions get handed down to us," he said. "It's awesome to see the school district wants input from students and want to include them in the process."
The task force, made up of 25 parents, students, teachers, community members and staff, met five times beginning in November. The group's first meeting came about two months after a 17-year-old Greendale High School student wrote a bomb threat in a bathroom because he told police he wanted to disrupt the homecoming activities. Police reports indicate the teen experienced prolonged bullying by his peers, including nominating him for homecoming court as a prank.
The task force heard from principals about programs already in place and from students about where harassment occurs.
In addition to student involvement, the group also identified communication and education improvements as well as staff development.
Its full report can be found on the district website.
Another group also seeking bullying remedies
Also last week, the Greendale Against Bullying organization announced it entered into a cooperative agreement with Milwaukee Public Schools and the Greendale School District to help prevent and effectively deal with bullying.
The group, also called GABnow, is a nonprofit comprised of a diverse mix of residents who care about the emotional and physical health of students, according to a news release.
GABnow will be an alternative source for students and parents to seek help with suspected cases of bullying.
"Having a collaborative agreement with the school districts will help our organization, the schools and the community as a whole," President Linda Lee said. "Working together will have a direct and positive impact in addressing the issue of bullying."