Monday, October 16, 2006

Bullying Prevention Where There's No Need

The town of Ayer is starting a bullying prevention program in its public schools, according to the Boston Globe ("Ayer making it clear that bullies won't be tolerated," Boston Globe Northwest, 10-15-06). It's the first district-wide program in the state in this system with 1,350 students. They are probably eagerly anticipating the free middle-school anti-bullying curriculum being prepared by our state government.

We've noticed that the definition of "bullying" continues to expand to anything that makes a kid feel bad. In the Mass. Youth Behavior Risk Survey 2005, bullying is defined in question #21: "During the past 12 months, how many times have you been bullied at school? (Being bullied includes being repeatedly teased, threatened, hit, kicked, or excluded by another student or group of students.)" [emphasis added] That would just about include everyone! So this opens up victimhood status to anyone the school administrators choose to focus on... You get the idea.

The Ayer school authorities don't claim there's any recent spike in bullying. So ... why the program? Obviously, it's a means of introducing discussions of so-called GLBT children and families. It's about "making sure that all kids feel safe." (Where have we heard that line before?)

The consultant who will work with the Ayer schools published his book (“Schools Where Everyone Belongs”) with the Research Press, which specializes in "Books and videos in School Counseling, Special Education, Psychology, Counseling and Therapy, Parenting, Death and Dying, and Developmental Disabilities." In other words, our schools are becoming just therapeutic centers, and our children are all in need of special services!

From the local Harvard Hillside paper:
The model of bullying intervention is an innovative program based on the research of Dr. Dan Olweus of Norway. Previous approaches to bullying involve attempting to change the behavior of the target or victim of bullying, but these new approaches involve a restructuring of the school environment.

From the Boston Globe:

Bullying, or unacceptable behavior typically characterized by name-calling and physical threats, "has been a long-term concern of ours," Ayer School Superintendent Lore A. Nielsen said. However, it wasn't an unusual number of incidents that triggered this program, she emphasized. "Rather, we saw a need for linking up all the schools" to deal with the issue, she said....

Nielsen said the system has no data available on the number of bullying incidents it has handled. Jayne Garrett, a guidance counselor at Page Hilltop School, which has pupils from kindergarten through fourth grade, said the new program "is more about being pro active than it is about responding to a number of incidents. "We want to make sure that all kids feel safe," she said.

The nonprofit Ayer Education Foundation Inc. is funding the program with grants and donations of more than $10,000 ...