When asked to picture the typical school bully, the majority of people picture a 1950’s style jock, complete with a letterman jacket and gang behind him, pinning a nerdy peer against a locker.
With the constantly changing American culture, the jock has gone virtual.
Schools across the country have taken a strict stance against bullying.
At Clayton, we pride ourselves on a policy of intolerance for bullying and harassment. Students are taught from preschool onward about virtues and what it means to be a good friend, so it is only natural that they are held to these standards outside of school as well.
As times have changed so has bullying, and thus so has the role of the school within American culture.
However, bullying can no longer be solved by physical intervention; simply pushing two kids away from each other isn’t going to cut it.
Now, teens are protected by the walls of cyberspace.
It is easier to verbally and virtually abuse than ever before, and this has recently been proven at our own school.
Clearly the values taught from day one in the Clayton School District do not transcend the school building walls as well as we hoped.
As bullying takes a new, digital form, the approach needs to change with the times.
I am not suggesting that teachers get fake social media accounts and patrol the web, we have seen that practice descend into another kind of administrative mess. I am encouraging the district to take disciplinary action against students who bully others online, if the administration determines this by a student complaint and, thus, subsequent investigation.
There is a clear debate about how much a school administration should get involved, regarding the outside life of a student. Although students are technically not involved in a school related activity if they are posting outside the school building; their harsh words affect the performance and health of other students.
It is for this reason that the school has a right and a duty to get involved.
The relationship between teachers and students has changed over several decades. They are now expected to help students in more than just an academic sense. Faculty are increasingly responsible for the well being of their students and are expected to model appropriate behavior.
Teachers can play an important role in combatting modern bullying by simply being a support system for students who are struggling, as well as by modeling appropriate behavior.
At Clayton especially, students respect their teachers not just for their role, but for who they are as people.
In my personal experience, certain teachers have helped me get through very dark times, regardless of the cause.
Clayton is a key example of the modern role of the school in the lives of students.
The administration outlined its core values in the student planner, emphasizing the importance of contacting adults when students need support. One of such values was listed as, “Inclusiveness by valuing individual differences and the contributions of a diverse student body and staff.” This core value was followed immediately by the pledge of, “accountability by aligning our actions and resources with our stated objectives and taking responsibility for the outcomes.”
Clearly, the District believes that it is imperative to do whatever it takes to provide students with the diverse and accepting environment which is promised. Later in the student planner, administrators continued to write that, “Students who experience difficulties with other students are to seek the assistance of adults in the school.”
Clayton has a reputation for being a place of inclusiveness and comfort. Faculty are not only hired to teach their students, but to make them feel secure. The school invites students to feel comfortable enough to talk to teachers and administrators about things that happen outside of school, in order to ensure that they get the best education inside of school. This applies to things that happen to students, by students, on social media.
Online harassment affects the way they function in school. When someone is being targeted, their whole life shifts.
When students glance at their phone, it is not simply their emotions that are altered; their self confidence shakes. Students no longer have the same ability to participate and excel academically when they are just trying to feel good about themselves. Bullying and outside of school issues affect the health and overall well-being of the student. The school has a responsibility to care for the student enough to take action.
School in modern culture is just as much about social education as well as the core classes. Students who are not treating others appropriately need to be dealt with the same way they would if they refused to participate academically.
While traditionally school was not meant to engage in other aspects of students’ lives other than in their education, students now are being educated on social skills and deserve to be cared for by the place and people that they spend the majority of their waking hours with.