Students Creating School Climate Improvement

September 18 2014

Authors

  • William Grace Frost, Strategic Relations Director
    William Grace Frost
    Strategic Relations Director
  • Rick Phillips, Founder, Community Matters
    Rick Phillips
    Founder, Community Matters

We know we can’t legislate civility nor can we punish children into being more tolerant. The only viable solution to the spread of the bullying virus on school campuses today is to change the social norms that allow it to occur.

We know that in more than 85% of bullying situations, there are witnesses. However, more often than not, the witnesses or bystanders do not say or do anything. The effect of their silence is “deafening”, because silence is a form of consent. Consent emboldens the bully who perceives the silence of others as tacit approval of their actions and permission to continue.

Dr. Stuart Twemlow, respected author and bullying expert, recommends bystander education as the most effective strategy for improving and strengthening the social-emotional climate available to schools today.

Clearly, what must be done is to equip students and adults with the skills to raise their voices and effectively speak up when they encounter an incident of bullying, cyber-bullying or other mean-spirited behavior.

When student leaders speak up, they interrupt, de-escalate and often stop incidents from escalating and becoming offenses. We hear from many administrators that their school climate and culture is greatly improved, and that the number of fights, suspensions and other negative behaviors are reduced significantly after implementing student empowerment programs like Safe School Ambassadors®.

Young people are powerful, but often adults don’t recognize their capacity to be peacemakers and change agents. Seeing a young person who has been “awakened” and is choosing to speak up is exciting and inspirational. I’m reminded of the power of youth by this quote from Desmond Tutu;

“Young people are uniquely equipped to change the world because they dream.
They choose not to accept what is, but to imagine what might be.”

I remain grateful and hopeful that so many of you support “waking up the courage” of young people to stand up and speak up, and to dreaming themselves into the change we wish them to be.



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