In 2012, Grace McComas, a 15 year old student, committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied via social media websites. In 2013 Grace’s Law was passed making cyber bullying a misdemeanor. Shortly thereafter, Howard County Voices for Change Youth Coalition issued a report on the state of bullying and presented a number of recommendations to address it. Today HCPSS has an online means of reporting bullying, though many in the community remain unaware of it, something I’d seek to rectify.
If you yourself have been bullied or love someone who has, you know how deeply this impacts ones ability to learn and function. It’s not something we can ignore.
Noting that the report emphasized the power of peer trust and influence in designing solutions, I would advocate for the adoption of student led “bystander” training. One effective model, called Training Active Bystanders (TAB), has been developed by the Quabbin Mediation Center in Massachusetts. TAB helps participants recognize when they are bystanders, analyze the situation in which they find themselves, and evaluate the consequences for everyone involved. It illustrates how bystanders can disrupt bullying and at the same time encourage positive action by others. Practices like this one are powerful tools to build community. These are the types of ideas we need to introduce into the conversation.