To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing you today regarding implementing an anti-bullying program in all of the Michigan City Area Schools. Bullying is an epidemic in this nation and it needs to stop. Every day children are bullied. Every day children don't want to go to school because they don't want to be picked on. Every day some child wonders if they can take anymore. Children shouldn't have to feel the only way out is suicide. We need to be pro-active about this in our community to ensure that children enjoy coming to school, that school is a fun place of learning without fear of censure. According to the National Education Association, an estimate of 160,000 children misses school every day due to fear of intimidation by other students.
The schools need to take a stance of no tolerance for bullying. A friend of mine is a teacher in Michigan and her school has adopted the Behavior Rubric attached. She has said that her school requires all the teachers and students to follow the Rubric, and that it is sent home with parents and talked about at the Open Houses. It has made a dramatic improvement in her school. Adopting a similar Rubric costs the school absolutely no money and the benefits are immense.
I want to point out a couple of items on the Behavior Rubric that may need some further explanation. The "Time to Think Form" is a form that must be filled out by the student who has broken one of the Rubric Rules. The student should be sent to another area outside of the classroom and they are not allowed to come back until they have filled it out. The "Time to Think" form should have questions as to why they did what they did, what they could do better next time. This form should be sent to the parents that night for their signature in addition to the phone call directly from the student. This makes the student personally responsible for inappropriate actions or words. There should also be separate forms for the different grade classes. An elementary student shouldn't be given the same form as a high school student. There is an example of the "Time to Think" form also attached with this letter.
The other two terms I feel need clarification is ISS and OSS, which stand for In School Suspension and Out of School Suspension. It may seem strict to suspend a student due to bullying, but I firmly believe that fights are usually caused by some kind of bullying. Once it gets to a fight, it is punished by the school, but we should be taken care of it before it gets to that point.
I am also including some Core Components of a School-Based Aggression Prevention Program. This is an easy to read guide of how to come to a general consensus of what is bullying, where the "line in the sand" is, doing an anonymous survey with the students to get their perspective and developing the plan on an Area school basis. A copy of a survey regarding bullying is also enclosed.
It is important that teachers teach children what the difference is between ratting and reporting. I am attaching a worksheet that discusses how to talk to students about it as well as a Student Report Form. This year at an after school program, my five year old son was being choked by another five year old. My oldest daughter (8) saw this and attempted to get up to tell someone, but was told promptly not to get up from her seat. When I found out about this, I went directly to the after school program and talked with them about it. They told my daughter that no matter what she needs to get up next time, but I understand my daughter's fear that she's going to get in trouble by trying to get up because she at that point is supposed to "sit down." This can happen as easily in an after school program as it can during school hours.
I am also including handouts of "Reasons Adults Don't Intervene More," "What do Targets Need?" and "What do Bullies Need?" I think these are very informative for a teacher or staff at the school as to what to look for, why an adult should intervene as well as the support both the "Target" and the "Bully" need. There are many web resources regarding anti-bullying and suicide prevention. A couple of my favorites are: http://kidshealth.org and http://www.thetrevorproject.org. Web resources, hotlines, pamphlets and books regarding bullying should be able to be accessed through the school.
It is important for the schools to teach empathy vs. intolerance and compassion. Many times I have talked to my daughter about asking questions in school. Currently, I am enrolled at Purdue North Central and I ask any question I need to, because I know how important education is. However, as a young child it is different. There is a tremendous fear of censure or "looking stupid" when they raise their hand. If they get an answer wrong, or ask what someone else in the class thinks is "dumb" children can be made fun of. My daughter told me of an instance just like this two weeks ago in her class. She told me she raised her hand and answered a question, but her answer was wrong. The result: a few of the students in her class laughed at her. Next time it will be that much harder for her to raise her hand and take that chance. The form "Teaching and Modeling Empathy and Compassion At School" furnishes strong ideas on how to teach this in the classroom.
The final attachment is a Teaching Script of a couple of games that teaches children about Bullying. I feel these are applicable for students from pre-school through elementary school. I feel it is important we start early in teaching our children what is right and wrong, and what is acceptable behavior.
After the recent deaths of so many teenagers it has inspired me to become actively involved in Anti-Bullying. Children are killing themselves. This can and should be stopped. Let's not wait until this happens in Michigan City. I hope that you will take the time to review this information and contact me. I would like to be as involved as possible with initiating an Anti-Bullying Program in the Michigan City Area Schools. We should go from being a reactive society to become a preemptive society. I hope you take this situation as seriously as I do.