Time has a piece in its October 18 issue, “Bullied to Death,” (sorry…entire article is available only to print subscribers) in which writer John Cloud notes that a “proven strategy” for districts is to invest in a school resource officer, or SRO. This person walks the halls and connects with kids, being a hybrid of adult authority figure and buddy. One possible effective focus of the SRO is the bystander, those who observe the bullying but do nothing about it.
Of course, a staff member like this, well trained enough to walk a thin line between earning the students’ trust and remaining an authority figure, costs money. From our experience, our district does not have such staff. Does yours? Would you be willing to lobby in your school for such a person, perhaps even on a part-time basis?
One way to argue for it is to make clear to schools that allowing bullying to continue has proven to be harmful again and again. Not only that, but even bystanders may suffer harm just from witnessing bullying and experiencing the indecision of whether or not to interfere. Having an adult designated specifically to mediate these behaviors–not a counselor who manages all sorts of issues, but an adult focused on anti-bullying mediation specifically–could result in immeasurable benefits to a school.
Barack Obama has asked for a 12% increase in funding for anti-bullying programs. Kevin Jennings, director of Obama’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (and a former gay activist who founded the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network), notes that data are lacking and the government is trying to fill that gap. Regardless, as the Time’s piece quotes Jennings, “Hateful behavior is never appropriate.”
I call for an initiative to establish SROs in schools countrywide. Is it a guarantee that bullying will end? No, but it’s certainly a way to home in on the dynamic, boost the reaction of the bystander to a positive outcome, and ensure that the bullied and the bullies know that someone is there, focused on them. Now, I guess there is some work to do.
Do you have experience with SROs in your school? Let us know.