Making sweeping social changes in any educational system is a hard and often-times very long process. The changes are made even harder when they are indirect, and not necessarily institutional. The way students are taught and awarded for achievement has evolved over time in order to create a more balanced structure for them. Yet, even with these changes, bullying still occurs at all grade levels in primary school. There are multiple ideas on how legislatures can handle this issue, by introducing bills that incentivizes anti-bullying programs, by requiring schools to have specific programs, by ensuring that bullying can be confronted through legal means. These ideas follow along the Alinskyite method of broad social change (Su, Ch 3, 2009).
At a more in-the-trenches level, Freirean social change can engage the students, coaches, and parents more head on. Bullying can be zeroed in at a school or even a particular student basis. This is done by having an open dialogue between parents, teachers, students, parent boards, and community engagement projects. Unlike Alinskyite change, everybody has an even footing in witnessing what needs to be done. By using this method, we can look at the dynamics of each school, class, or group of students, and make recommendations to those who make choices regarding school or bullying policy (Su, Ch 4, 2009).
Finally, Public Achievement works at the level of teachers, TA’s and coaches who work with the students. If a specific individual or group of individuals are becoming the object of being bullied, or if a student is responsible for engaging in the activity, one on one conversations and in-class activities about bullying can be engaged. This new model for social change wishes to engage these three methods of enacting social change, while recognizing that the school that was part of the practicum may also have some PJU issues, as many minority prevalent schools do (Su, Ch 5, 2009). The thesis of this paper is to show a possible avenue for these methods to become a singular manageable model for social change in the Boulder school community and throughout the state of Colorado.
Current Findings and Statistics at School, Community and State Levels
So that a new model can be enacted in our area, we have to know what the demographics and socio-economic circumstances of the school community are. We can do this by looking at the city of Boulder as a whole, then look at any information we can find on the district that Columbine Elementary is located in. This will be good for looking at what role race may play into the way students are coached, based on cultural norms. It can also provide a lot of insight into what and if the area has done anything to address the local problem of bullying. By looking into Public Achievement models, we can look at what activities in the class are effective, and which maybe don’t work as well. By starting here, we can look at the Freirean and PA models and make novel suggestions(Su, Ch 4, 2009).
After looking at the microcosm of the Boulder and its school community, we can go more in the route of the Alinskyite model (Su, Ch 3, 2009), and broaden our research to the state level. What is the state doing to address bullying in grade schools. What top-down organizations can be formed to show that this is a serious issue that affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of US students We can scope out shortcomings and try to compel state congress to make the necessary changes so that each and every student can go to school in a safe place, free from being bullied by an individual, or more often, a group of individuals. Committees and organizations can be started in order to take this issue head on.
The city of Boulder is one of moderate growth, with a population of 103,166 as of 2013. It has an extremely young median age, at 27.7 years. The populace is fairly affluent, with a median household income of almost $60,000 per year. The population is almost exclusively white, with only two other ethnicities of a ny notable mention, 8.4% is Hispanic, and 4.5% Asian. There are less than 1,000 black people who live in Boulder, and less than 100 Native Americans. Violent crime is extremely low in the city, with only 18 murders from 2001 to 2013 (14 of which were committed in 3 specific years), a rape rate of .037% per year, and assaults at .1361% per year. Theft is the only substantial crime at 2.17% per year. This information was provided by City-Data.com (2016).
The principal of Columbine elementary is Guillermo Medina. He is working hard to make and keep the school as being a “bilingual learning community,” that embraces the large percentage of its students who are of a Hispanic background (Columbine Elementary, 2016)(Su, Ch 5, 2009). Being bilingual can typically add an extra $5,000 to $10,000 to a person’s income as an adult, so this is a school that clearly has the future of its students in mind. The school website has clear links for the parents about how to address behavioral issues with their children and focuses on actions having consequences. This can be a useful guide for parents who have children who have been reprimanded for bullying behavior.
The Boulder Valley School District website has a webpage dedicated to links on Bullying, and different studies and strategies for avoiding it (2016). The most compelling group worth looking at is from the the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado - Boulder (Institute of Behavioral Sciences, 2016). This will be a primary source for information on enacting social change via Freirean and PA methods (Su, Ch 4, 2009), as we are very lucky to have this resource so close to us.
In order to address the Alinskyite side of this, the state as a whole was looked at(Su, Ch 3, 2009). Because Boulders demographics don’t align very well with the rest of the state, especially considering racial diversity and median age of resident, just the policies of Colorado towards bullying can be looked at and should be. Perhaps there are already laws on the books that need to be enforced more rigorously, or perhaps there is legislation that should be enacted in Colorado that has not. The law most notable is house bill 11-1254 (Stopbullying.gov, 2011). It is fairly comprehensive, though there are parts of the bill that have fallen by the wayside, such as reporting accounts of bullying in each school and school district in the state, as well as not really having legal remedies if the bullying is severe. It also lacks a template for a uniform anti-bullying program around the state.
The Colorado Department of Education is doing a lot to bridge the gap between legislation and what teachers and parents can do to help reduce bullying in schools (2016). This can be used as a secondary source that accurately provides a lot of primary source information including statistics and data on what strategies work in Colorado schools. The statistics are interesting and give a new level of depth into the bullying debate. Overall, though, there are many holes in Colorado law still. Before this House Bill was passed, there was no real bullying policy on the state books at all, at least not any that were of any consequence. The one on the books now seeks to protect people from a wide variety of backgrounds, but not all, surprisingly. For instance, they protect children that are homosexual, but do not protect children that identify as a different gender. It also misses out on a group of kids who are sometimes treated worse than any others — those that are overweight. Also, not having a uniform way of making specific school policies (the example provided by Boulder County of Mesa Elementary was reductive at best) leaves room for a great organization, one that creates and fights for an across-the-board policy that makes it easier to identify bullying, and handle the malbehavior.
Starting at the grassroots level, though Columbine Elementary itself has an extremely pro-active principal, the school district itself could improve drastically (Su, Ch 4, 2009). As just mentioned in the paragraph before this statement, the exemplary school chosen by Boulder Valley was Mesa Elementary. The policy they had regarding bullying was vague, not diagnostic or remedial in any way, and did not have a point other than to assure parents that bullying is being addressed. The release was less than a page and a half long, and was written in a way that someone with only a fourth grade reading level could fully understand. As was established in the prior section, Boulder is a reasonably affluent community, which suggests a high rate of literacy. The page they had on bullying was, for lack of a better phrase, completely disposable.
Luckily, The University of Colorado - Boulder has a large program devoted to violence and harm among youth. Specifically, under the program, they have a sub-group of programs labeled “Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development.” Within this network of programs, each are evaluated by the University’s Overall Study. The KiVa Antibullying Program, first established in Finland in 1996, made its way stateside by 2012. It is implemented at three waves, with a high level of success in elementary students by the third wave. It involves a team of teachers coming together any time a case of bullying is presented, and intervening by confronting the bully. Students guilty of bullying receive 20 additional hours of schooling the year of the occurrence that focuses on victim impact. It also provides behavioral therapy when needed to show the bully different approaches for channeling their resentments towards another classmate (Yang and Salmivalli, 2015). Another program, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, was also evaluated, and found to be ineffective in non-white communities. Therefore, its use is not universal and should be dismissed. For whatever reason however, it seems to be the method preferred by Boulder Valley, even despite The University’s negative critique on the program. This is a local issue that absolutely should be addressed. Schools in Colorado are given grant money to develop anti-bullying programs, so there is no reason why KiVa program can’t be enacted instead.
As far as the practicum experience goes at Columbine Elementary, the videos seemed to be effective, along with the icebreaking activities, and talking about why bullying is wrong (CR). It is extremely important that bullying is approached at this young and impressionable age. It makes kids far less likely to be bullies, and to be advocates against bullying. Wrinkled Wanda is a fun activity, but it needs to be noted that this activity takes time (CR). Other fun activities include, Planet X (CR), where the kids draw up a bill of rights for their classroom, which they pretend is a space colony that they found themselves. This can then be implemented throughout the school year. The Bullying Reality quiz (CR) is very empowering for each student, as it allows the kids to each create their own quiz based on their ideas of what bullying are. The students can then exchange the quizzes and form a learning community that integrates every student into a comradery of understanding what it means to be a bully to one another. Education World (2016) has many great, tried and true lesson plans that involve the use of other grade-level skills to internalize each lesson.
The Public Achievement recommendations just mentioned spill into the Freirean model (Su, Ch 4, 2009). Teachers, parents, stakeholders at the local, district, and county level should all be involved in deciding what recommendations to take, and which to throw out (Su, Ch 4, 2009). This can be done through a variety of methods. Some suggest a quick survey, but this is a poor way of addressing the issue. Often, when government officials do not see an issue or problem for themselves, they tend to make quick judgements, like choosing the Mesa Elementary school statement on bullying as being a good example of how the rest of elementary schools should act. It also leads to cheaper prevention methods being used, when there is grant money available to cover the costs. By inviting these officials into the school environment, to perhaps meet with teachers and parents, they are getting a first-hand look into what is being done and what still needs to be done. Columbine elementary has a great, underused principal who could perhaps voice his concerns or ideas on the matter.
Having statewide policies regarding the consequences of bullying is something that should at least be considered. For example, if the victim is bullied in an A way, the consequence to the bully should be X; bullied in a B way, then the consequence should be Y, and so on. There are also instances when legal remedies need to be on the the table. If a student is sexually bullied by another student, or physically harmed, then the responsible parties need to realize that these are actual crimes in the grown-up world, and they should have to face juvenile charges for what they’ve done, with rehabilitation being the primary goal. A statewide organization to promote these changes in law would be highly beneficial.
Quickly addressing the PJU model, because schools like Columbine are heavily Hispanic, a lot of care needs to be taken to make sure that the students are taught to be careful, both of gangs and crime, as well as the prison system. As unfair as it is, Hispanics are arrested at much higher rates than white people, and once in the prison pipeline, it is an almost impossible system to escape from. A lot of prison legislation reform needs to take place for this to change. Unfortunately, at the moment, it is still the status quo. Minority students need to be made aware of what activities to avoid, as well as knowing what their rights are (Su, Ch 5, 2009).
An organization that works to make sure that each school in the state has a universal template on which to draw up its code of conduct regarding bullying is necessary. Enforcement of reporting each and every case of bullying is absolutely essential in making sure that the state has the data it needs to make the right adjustments to its bill. Finally, legal stipulations need to be added when bullying crosses the line into becoming assault. By working on the things mentioned above, we can achieve a singular model for which to control and reduce bullying in our schools.
Boulder Valley School District. “Bullying Prevention.” bvsd.org. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016
Colorado Department of Education. “Research on Bully Prevention and Intervention.” Colorado
Columbine Elementary. “Positive Behavior Resources.” columbineelementary.org 2014. Web.
27 Apr. 2016
Education World. “Anti-Bullying Activities” educationworld.com 2016. Web. 26 APr. 2016.
Of Violence, University of Colorado-Boulder. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016
Stopbullying.gov. “Colorado Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies.” US Department of Health and
Human Services. 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016
Su, Celina. “Streetwise for Book Smarts: Grassroots Organizing and Education Reform in the
Bronx.” Cornell University Press; 1 edition. Ch 3, 4, 5 pp. 46-62, 63-105, 106-131. 21
May, 2009. Print. 26 Apr. 2016
Yang, A. and Salmivalli, C. “Effectiveness of the KiVa anti-bullying programme on
bully-victims, bullies and victims. Educational Research. 57(1), 80-90. 2015. Web.
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And several Critical Reflections - will be cited in-text as “CR”