The Peace Center is able to intervene in a bullying crisis, in any one of several ways.
Assessment- Upon request, Peace Center staff can be brought in to assess whether or not a situation is, in fact, one that would fall under the bullying category. In order for a situation to be defined as bullying, three criteria must be met. First, the negative behavior directed toward the target must be occurring repeatedly. A single incident of name-calling, for example, does not qualify as a bullying occurrence. Second, there must be a perceived or actual imbalance of power between the two parties. The aggressor is trying to gain power or lord his power over his target. And third, the behavior must be initiated with the intent to do harm. Teasing between friends is not bullying.
Restorative Justice Circles- Unilateral punishment is rarely effective in the realm of bullying. When high school aggressors are suspended or expelled, it is not unusual for them to drop out of school altogether. When younger students are punished in this way they may not fully understand how their actions impacted others, and they lose the opportunity for action-oriented learning. The development of social/emotional intelligence can not occur in a vacuum. Restorative justice can be used in situations where conflict has escalated and all parties can be convinced to engage in dialogue. In a restorative justice circle aggressors, targets, bystanders, parents, and school personnel can be brought together to engage in reflective dialogue. Target and aggressor will have equal, active roles in the process. Targets will discuss the ways in which they were impacted by bullying and the aggressors will be encouraged to take responsibility for their actions. Together, all involved will decide on appropriate consequences and a course of action toward resolution and healing can begin. It is critical that restorative justice circles be conducted by trained, professional facilitators. Some schools have trained professionals on staff. For those who don’t, The Peace Center can provide this service.
Support Circles-Targets of bullying and their parents benefit greatly from associating with others who are experiencing similar traumatic events. The Peace Center offers this opportunity through our weekly support circles. Students who are caught up in the emotional and/or physical stress brought on by bullying participate in self-esteem building exercises, learn coping skills, and forge bonds with other children in similar circumstances. A trained high school student, often someone who has survived bullying himself/herself, along with a trained adult, engage the children in meaningful discussion about feelings, how to handle anger, and what works and doesn’t work when confronting a bully. Through these activities and discussions, students gain social/emotional intelligence and coping skills.
While their children meet in one room, their parents attend their own support circle in another space. This group is also facilitated by trained Peace Center educators. Parents share their experiences with each other and often learn from both the triumphs and disappointments of others. The facilitator leads discussions about anger management, how to deal with a child in pain or anguish, the most effective ways to approach school personnel, and how to maintain a peaceful environment at home.
Staff at The Peace Center is able to help a schools and/or communities develop their own support groups based on our model.