Bullying in schools is a complex problem that can be solved, according to the comments of Notre Dame faculty members, South Bend community members, and other interested parties during a panel discussion following a March 23 screening of the documentary film, “Bully.”
The film, which has become the centerpiece of a nationwide anti-bullying effort called the Bully Project, traces the stories of young people who experienced that pattern of behavior and the profound impacts, including the tragedy of suicide, that followed.
As part of an extended exploration of the bullying problem, the Browning Cinema at Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center hosted the panel discussion led by Clark Power, a psychology professor and Institute for Educational Initiatives faculty fellow who directs the Play Like a Champion Today ® character formation program in the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).
“We tend to blame the victims,” Power said, adding that the solution is broader and deeper than somehow “fixing” a single problem with the victim—or the bully. The solution has been known for years, but it entails systemic, community-wide change, he said, expressing hope that those in the movie theater “can be the change this [film] is talking about.”
Kevin Burke, a specialist in curriculum in ACE’s faculty of supervision and instruction, said confrontations of children in powerful situations with children in situations of powerlessness are ripe for bullying in a culture that doesn’t welcome those who are different. “The hidden curriculum in a lot of our schools is that if you don’t conform well you’re a target.”
Brian Collier, a specialist in race and social class in education in ACE’s faculty of supervision and instruction, said adults need to be better at intervening in bullying situations and teaching children how to intervene. Parents need to “take any words the kids are saying very seriously,” without dismissing them or the situations, and a school’s culture must encourage students “to befriend each other” and not let fellow students be “othered”—alienated, without friends.
Both Burke and Collier are Institute for Educational Initiatives faculty fellows. Two members of the March 23 panel offered insights from the “Take Ten” program teaching young people and parents the skills of conflict-resolution through Notre Dame’s Robinson Community Learning Center, which serves the South Bend community. The “Take Ten” representatives included Ellen Kyes, who directs the program, and Kwame Nuako, a Notre Dame pre-professional program undergraduate who volunteers with South Bend youngsters.
More information about the film “Bully” and the Bully Project is available at http://www.thebullyproject.com/. The powerful 2011 documentary is available on Netflix and elsewhere.
(Panelists included, l to r, Brian Collier, Kevin Burke, Ellen Kyes, Kwame Nuaku, Clark Power.)
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