Several years back, when I was an editor at an educational research organization, we produced materials for a federal initiative to promote school safety. Among our most popular publications was a fact sheet on strategies to prevent bullying. The solutions seemed so straightforward: Don't ignore it. Create a climate of respect. Make it safe to ask for help.
Fast forward a decade or more, and bullying persists as an issue that just won't go away. Indeed, it continues to mutate as new technologies are harnessed for the hideous cause of attacking another person's humanity.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Scarcely a week in, we've seen headlines about a gang in New York that viciously attacked two teens and an adult male because they happen to be gay. We've heard a candidate for governor of the same state describe gay people as "disgusting." And then refuse to apologize for his bigotry. We've heard more reports about a New Jersey college student named Tyler Clementi who jumped off a bridge after his classmates used Twitter, a webcam, and YouTube to torment him by broadcasting details of his intimate life. (OK, that happened in September.)
Clearly, this is a problem that's still crying for solutions.
What can we do to make sure we don't continue to face the same problem in another decade? For starters, take a look at a project called Not In Our School. It grew out of an anti-hate campaign called Not In Our Town, which itself grew out of a documentary by the same name. (My recent Edutopia post includes more background.) Resources for schools include no-nonsense classroom materials and a social media campaign that encourages kids to create and share their own anti-bullying messages.
Can a campaign make a difference? Take a look at the Not in Our School videos from Gunn High in Palo Alto or Shaw High School in East Cleveland, Ohio, and see for yourself. Better yet, share them with your students. And get the conversation started.