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Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Better Approach to Bullying?

The nature of a bureaucracy is to develop policies to address problems. Policies are a standardized set of rules and consequences that can be applied to various situations that generally mean less actual consideration of the facts by the individuals authorized to apply the consequences. Policies are seen as an efficient way to move forward and get past a broad spectrum of problems the system may experience. Because they are broad in scope and purposely disregard specific details, policies are often ineffective. This is never more obvious than when you look at school policies. Stripped of the cumbersome details of the individuals and circumstances, consequences meted out according to policy are often out of proportion to the infraction and, frustratingly, never seem to make the problem go away.

Take the problem of bullying. Can anyone point to an effective policy against bullying? Not really. There are programs that have some impact, sure, but policy rarely affects the problem of bullying. Can anyone point to horrible outcomes based on anti-bullying policy? Absolutely.  The blogosphere is full of them.

This week we have a case of bullying in Arizona that did not rely on policy to produce a happy ending. It ultimately came down to people making a personal connection and a mother working outside the official system to try to help her daughter.
QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. -- This story starts with high school hierarchy. The kind where kids like seniors Carson Jones and Tucker Workman sail through their classes and lead the undefeated football team.

“It's senior year, you know, it’s pretty exciting," Workman said. "It’s a rush, it goes by so fast but it’s fun."

At the same time, students like Chy Johnson just try to make it through the day.

“The girl threw trash at me," Chy said, describing one of the girls who bullies her.

The 16-year-old sophomore was born with a brain disorder, and kids picking on her because of her differences have always been a part of life. But this year, her mom had enough of her coming home crying every day. She decided to call on a family friend for help. It was Carson Jones, starting quarterback.

"I emailed Carson and told him Chy was having some issues," Elizabeth Johnson said. "I just wanted names...but he took it a step further and went and gathered her at lunch. And she’s been eating with them ever since!"
From first hour through the end of the day, Chy’s guys from the team make it a point to look after her. And this group’s newfound friendship has changed the high-school game.

“They’re not bullying her anymore because they’ve seen her with us or something," Jones said.

It's nice to be able to share a story with a happy ending every once in a while.

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