Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Phoebe Prince

It appears school lunches and bullying are both hot topics this year, especially with the local, highly publicized story regarding the suicide of 15 year old Phoebe Prince. This media firestorm first occurred back in January and with the recent news that charges have been made, it's back again.

Nine teenagers have been charged with various crimes relating to the death of Prince, which are explained in detail in the linked articles below. The articles share the same common information: unrelenting bullying of Phoebe, kids and teachers who were aware of what was going on, and a fired up public. If you haven't figured it out by now, I don't rehash articles that already have the information for you. So, they're linked below. If a study or article comes out on its own, I'll do a more in depth review (like the New England Journal of Medicine article on salt) but when so many articles appear in a certain amount of time, I just add my thoughts.

Here's an editorial by Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen. It's more, uh, blunt than the other reports. Next, the actual articles in the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. A brief story also appeared in the Springfield Republican.

It's no secret that bullying happens. In order for bullying to stop, students need to learn the skills of how to properly handle a bullying situation. What should someone do if they are being teased or bullied? What can they do as a bystander who witnesses bullying happening? Why do kids bully anyway? To me, this might be the most important question. Part of our sixth grade curriculum includes Aggressors, Victims, and Bystanders. It's a little dated, but my favorite part deals with what students can do as a bystander to a bullying situation, and how they can either prolong the bullying or help end it. We also discuss that choosing not to do anything at all is a decision that has its consequences, as many people in South Hadley have found out. Students should also learn other important life skills, such as self-esteem, communication skills, goal setting, decision making, support networks...all of which can tie into anti-bullying units.

I'm up in the air about the new legislation in Massachusetts regarding bullying because it places most of the blame in one place. Parents are still responsible for their kids, and administrators have so much on their plate already. I'm not saying teachers and administrators should not report bullying behavior (they NEED to do something about it) but I think there are more proactive ways to handle this issue, which is another post in itself! I do like the part about attempting to change the climate of a school, and ultimately, teachers need to be aware of what constitutes bullying versus simple teasing (many may argue there is no such thing as simple teasing). However, so much of bullying can occur outside of school, where teachers and administrators are not responsible for the behavior of their students. I read a report about a parent who paid two boys fifty dollars each to "take care" of someone bullying his daughter. What kind of example does this set? When bullying does occur in school, it's often (not always) very subtle. Teenagers are masters at keeping their behavior discrete. By the time it's being taken care of, another incident is probably occurring. It's a never ending battle; at least it will be until we start changing the culture of a school and community. It is going to be a multi-faceted effort, involving schools, parents, community organizations, and more. Sounds like a great opportunity for schools to work within their coordinated school health programs!

NOTE: I picked up Queen Bees and Wannabes at Borders this weekend, along with a few other books. I'm hoping to start it this week, but with middle school, track, and class all very busy right now, it might have to wait until the weekend.

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