Tuesday, June 9, 2009

new approach to bullying prevention

The New York Times has an interesting article this week on new approaches to treating bullying - as a pediatric health problem.

At Last, Facing Down Bullies (and Their Enablers)
By Perri Klass, M.D.

In recent years, pediatricians and researchers in this country have been giving bullies and their victims the attention they have long deserved — and have long received in Europe. We’ve gotten past the “kids will be kids” notion that bullying is a normal part of childhood or the prelude to a successful life strategy. Research has described long-term risks — not just to victims, who may be more likely than their peers to experience depression and suicidal thoughts, but to the bullies themselves, who are less likely to finish school or hold down a job.

The article goes on to suggest that pediatricians be in contact with school principals when the become aware of problems, that a zero tolerance policy be in place in schools, and that youths are educated that "the bully is someone who has a problem managing his or her behavior, and the victim is someone they can protect." I love this theory of "activating the bystanders" as they call it, but which is in a way nothing more than the sort of extensive community partnering our libraries are striving to achieve...increasing communication, awareness and participation of teens and those who work with them for the good of all.

What can we as libraries do to prevent bullying? The most important thing is to have a zero tolerance policy ourselves. I try to be consistent about tolerating no roughhousing or name calling - no matter how jokey or friendly it might seem, we cannot gauge of the true hurtfulness. By not putting up with any of it, we create an atmosphere of respect and safety that makes it easier to spot truly problematic behavior. When disturbing patterns then can be seen, talk to school contacts to get information and help them see a bigger picture of their charges. Libraries are so extremely careful about always protecting identity of our patrons, I was surprised to discover school police officers and counselors are often quite willing to discuss behavior issues of specific students for the purpose of helping them. The more consistently issues can be address within the community, the better it is for teens, and for all of us.

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