Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Suicide Should NOT Be A Child's Solution to Bullying

Have you ever read a 12 year old's suicide letter? ....  I have. 

And all I can say is, there is nothing easy about it. You want to throw up and cry simultaneously. Tears well up in your eyes and anger fills your gut. There are few things more heart wrenching then hearing a child lose hope and joy.

Bullying... it's no big deal, right. It's just kids being kids. We got made fun of as kids and we're fine. We tell kids to grow thicker skin and walk away...

Even though there is some truth to learning how to walk away and grow thicker skin (when coupled with a solution that works towards stopping the offense), a child doesn't hear help in that wisdom. They hear, "You're being a baby. You're weak. You don't have a real reason to feel what you're feeling." 

This is why school culture is so important. Having expectations/norms that foster community, inclusion, respect, courage, compassion, and conflict resolution are vital to the emotional and physical safety of our children. 

I know high-stakes testing doesn't care about these character skills but these skills are the very things that keep our children alive and healthy, so they can learn. 

If your school doesn't address character in its curriculum please reach out to Tribes Learning Community Character Counts or Stopbullying.gov. I'm not a big fan of things that are taught in isolation, like a program of sorts. I like approaches that are strategies for ways of organizing your class and enhancing and integrating your existing lessons/curriculum with character concepts. Character isn't its own class, it's a way of being. A way of learning in all we do. It's a way of interacting. 

We need to address skills, behaviors, attitudes, and environmental factors that prevent bullying and negative peer relationships. We need to focus on creating the environment that prevents bullying, not just disciplining it, like Zero Tolerance policies do. If your school addresses character, please leave a comment sharing your approach/curriculum to help other educators and parents. 

If we all work together to stop this, I may never have to read another suicide letter again or see the permanent scars of self-mutilation and "cutting". 

Learn more about the benefits of SEL. (SEL = Social Emotional Learning)
Learn more about selecting an SEL program for your school.
Learn more about SEL and bullying prevention.
Learn more about the film “Bully” and The Bully Project.

Character sets our kids up for healthy friendships and relationships and honest ways of living and working.

Note: this child is still alive but we have a lot of work to do to make sure we prevent this cry for help from happening again. 

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