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Greendale task force recommends student-run anti-bullying group

Helping bullies see effects of their actions seen as key

Jan. 22, 2013

Greendale - The Climate and Culture Taskforce would like to see a student-run group created to combat bullying at the high school and middle school, its members told the School Board on Monday.

The task force - comprising 25 students, faculty members and parents - has met three times since November. The group examined instances and locations of bullying via an online survey, the district's current policy and other school districts' strategies to mitigate and stop bullying.

The task force found that most instances of bullying happen away from faculty members and administrators, and that a large amount of bullying happens via social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The proposed anti-bullying group models the Agents of Change organization at Wisconsin Lutheran High School. Agents of Change is a 100-member student group that focuses on promoting acceptance.

The proposed student-run group would use restorative justice techniques to help curb bullying. Restorative justice involves a face-to-face mediated discussion between the bully and victim. Members also would be trained to identify and speak out about bullying.

"Once the student sees the effect of their behavior, it enables them to change and see that the outcome is harmful," explained Sue Castro, co-chairman of the Climate and Culture Taskforce. "It might be the only opportunity that these kids have to see what we call positive reinforced behavior."

The group could potentially rival the size of Agents of Change at 100 students. While the task force recommends the group be put in place not only at the high school level, but also in the middle school, the group is still in its conceptual phase and needs to be approved by administrators before becoming a reality.

Emphasizing a need for broad representation in the group, Castro said: "We cannot only include the highfliers, the kids that are asked to contribute on everything. You have to include the students who don't have a voice."

An additional strategy may be to have the high school theater group create skits that promote character education development.

The task force's other recommendations were to have each school submit a climate and culture strategic plan each year, to train staff on spotting instances of bullying and to work closely with parent groups to curb bullying.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing how this plays out in our schools," School Board member Victoria McCormick said of the findings. "It takes a village to raise a child. It's all of us working together that helps children become the best they can be."

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